Crime | January 8, 2022 12:07 pm

Google Street View Aids in Capture of Italian Fugitive

An unlikely investigative tool

Google Street View
A Google Street View car with a 360 degree camera on its roof drives through the city center on October 07, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

So it turns out the panopticon is real, and it’s extraordinarily useful for navigating around unfamiliar cities. That’s one of several takeaways after hearing about the circumstances of how one Gioacchino Gammino was arrested after being a fugitive for the last 20 years. As The Guardian reported, he escaped from Rome’s Rebibbia prison in 2002, where he had been serving a life sentence.

How did authorities track him down? It turns out Gammino had settled in Spain, where he opened a restaurant under an assumed name. As reported by The New York Times, investigators traced him to the town of Galapagar — and noted that a familiar face was visible outside of one of the town’s restaurants.

It’s not yet clear how law enforcement traced Gammino there — The Guardian reports that he told investigators he hadn’t contacted his family in a decade — but we do know how they first caught sight of him. While Gammino had stayed under the radar of the police, he did end up photographed by Google Street View’s car, which sped up the investigation.

“Google Maps got us there faster,” General Nicola Altiero of the Antimafia Investigation Department told the Times. And, as The Guardian‘s article on Gammino’s capture points out, Gammino isn’t the only person to be captured using data from Google Street View. It’s not unlike the phenomenon of people seeing deceased loved ones on the same service, with just a bit of true crime podcasting thrown in.