I love Google Earth, one of the truly great uses of both the space program and the Interwebitubes. Some naughty people like it too much, so, of course, legislators want to get in there and ‘fix it’ by requiring the blurring of some buildings.

A thief stole £100,000 worth of lead from the roofs of buildings after identifying them with Google Earth.

Tom Berge used the popular internet tool, which shows aerial photographs of towns across the world, to pinpoint museums, churches and schools across south London with lead roof tiles.

After the 27-year-old builder found a potential target on his home computer he would scale its roof, take the valuable roof materials and abseil down the side of the building, before selling the lead to scrap metal dealers.
[…]
A friend of Berge, from Sutton, south London, said: “He sat at home at scoured south London for targets with just a few clicks of the mouse.

“He homed in on all sorts of buildings – many of them listed.

“He could tell the lead roofs apart on Google Earth as they were slightly darker than normal.”
[…]
Detective Sergeant Chris Grant, who led the investigation, said: “He was a prolific offender up until the time he was arrested.




  1. pipercaptain says:

    He climbed a building to steal lead? How do you transport the lead to the ground without throwing it, drawing attention to yourself, or making a lot of trips up and down? Sounds like too much work to me.

  2. Brian says:

    What I want to know is why would anyone have LEAD on their roof??!!

  3. Ron Larson says:

    Wasn’t there a similar story a while back where high-school kids were using Google Earth to id houses with swimming pools? Then they would wait for the owners to leave and crash the place and throw a pool party.

  4. Uncle Dave says:

    #4: Well, daaah! Lead, as anyone knows, is better than tinfoil.

  5. Paddy-O says:

    Human Eyeballs Many Uses Include Finding Things To Steal

  6. RMVX says:

    #3 – Heard about that one too

    Is there a lot of money in this or something? Doesn’t sound like it’s worth the hassle unless that type of roofing is very expensive

  7. Buzz says:

    He would abseil down the side of the building…

    Rappel appears in Google some 18,500,000 times. Abseil appears 263,000 times. It’s a good word to know. approximately 1.4% of the time you encounter the concept.

  8. andycactus says:

    #2 Why put lead on the roof?

    Lead sheet is soft and easily shaped into complex 3D shapes which provided roof builders an ideal material to make water tight seals for complicated roof structures and gullies such as those found on Victorian churches. ie Lots of angled surfaces meeting at all sorts of weird angles. So typical of 100year old buildings found everywhere in the UK. In this application, lead is quite stable, corrosion resistant and should last for decades. Downside is it attracts thieves and culturally most British people are familiar with the concept of shady characters stealing the lead of the church roof.

    Scrap lead currently fetches about 0.6 UK sterling per kilo. So that is just short of a dollar a kilo or about 50 cents a pound.

    I am looking out of my window and I can see rooftops of 100year old buildings covered in literally 100s of square meters of lead.

    A cubic foot of lead comes in at about 320kg. You do the maths.

  9. Chuck says:

    Reminds me of the case of the missing Baltimore light poles where some industrious individual(s) absconded with 130 street lights. Not sure if anyone was ever arrested in conjunction with that case.


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