How Google Earth Aided Police In Finding Cannabis Farms

It's common knowledge to anyone that's spent enough time on the internet and more importantly on Google Earth, that it's possible to find some ... let's say less than legal — and sometimes downright bizarre — activities. From abandoned ships in Australia to flipped cars in Germany, and a whole mess of strange lines and drawings in the dirt on near every continent, Google Earth has seen it all (via TwistedSifter). An interesting flip-side to Google's dream to photograph the entire Earth is the way police departments across the globe have been using it to solve crimes. 

According to a write-up in C|Net magazine, Google Earth has been key for cash-strapped police departments to get the aerial photographs that would traditionally only be possible by helicopter. What a lot of police discover while using Google Earth, often by accident, are those "special" plots of cannabis crops that their growers would rather keep hidden.

Secret swiss cannabis farm

When people think of classic Swiss culture, they generally think of towering snow-capped mountains, dark chocolates, and questionable banking laws. While some of the richest people on the planet do stash their money in the Swiss banking system, rarely are people stashing cannabis crops in the Swiss countryside.

Surprisingly, though, a farmer decided to do exactly that in 2009. According to Der Spiegel, Swiss police were using Google Earth to look for two suspects' home addresses. After finding the suspects' home address, they noticed rather out-of-place rows in the cornfield next to the suspects' home. There was something wrong with the care the plot of plants had been planted with. After examining the aerial photos closer and a quick drive out to the farm, Swiss police found 1.8 acres of cannabis hidden in the farmer's cornfields, adding up to a staggering 1.2 tons of cannabis. The Google Earth image led to 16 arrests plus cash and valuables worth 900,000 Swiss Francs ($780,000), reports PCWorld.

Oregon cannabis overgrowth

Traditionally, the state of Oregon in the Pacific Northwest is known for a handful of things: great coffees, liberal politics, and constant rain. All that rain brings something else to the table when talking about the Pacific Northwest — its tons and tons of cannabis. In the state of Oregon, growing cannabis for medical purposes has long been legal and, in 2014, recreational use by adults was given the green light, meaning those over 21 could possess up to eight ounces of the dried plant and up to four plants for personal use (via Ballotpedia).  

In 2013, Oregon police noticed something strange on Google Earth when taking a look into Curtis Croft's farm. According to The Guardian, Croft was growing over three times his legal allotment of cannabis. Croft had reported he was growing for five people, which would give him a legal allowance to grow 30 plants but he was actually growing a touch over 96 plants. Makes you wonder if Croft ever thought about the chances of Google Earth showing the police his extra stash because, at the end of the day, Google Earth has made criminality in the digital age quite a lot harder.