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Town Uses Google Earth to Look for Illegal Pools

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 74 comments
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Time to get a grass-patterned cover for your pool.

Who wouldn't love to have their own private swimming pool in their backyard? Unfortunately, before you can build one, you need a permit from the city.

The town of Riverhead on Long Island is putting free technology to use and is employing the satellite images of Google Earth to spot swimming pools that are set up illegally without permits.

So far Riverhead has found about 250 pools without permits, leading to $75,000 in fees collected so far.

Riverhead's chief building inspector Leroy Barnes Jr. said that permits are required to ensure that all pools meet safety requirements.

Privacy advocates, however, say that using satellite images to sniff out pool permit-dodgers is a big brother move, especially by using an educational tool like Google Earth in a policing manner.

(Source: AP/WSJ.)

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Top Comments
  • 33 Hide
    bpeglow , August 4, 2010 10:21 AM
    Next up, live satellite feed for parking tickets.
  • 28 Hide
    silver565 , August 4, 2010 10:33 AM
    Followed by satellite Images of kids skipping school
  • 23 Hide
    howardp6 , August 4, 2010 10:45 AM
    You did not get a permit you got caught, you have to pay. I have problem with that. Using Google Earth should not be an issue, anyone can use it, why not the township.
Other Comments
  • 21 Hide
    joytech22 , August 4, 2010 10:19 AM
    Owch.. Eventually when Google updates the scan, they'll have many more who dodged the permit!
  • 33 Hide
    bpeglow , August 4, 2010 10:21 AM
    Next up, live satellite feed for parking tickets.
  • 28 Hide
    silver565 , August 4, 2010 10:33 AM
    Followed by satellite Images of kids skipping school
  • 23 Hide
    howardp6 , August 4, 2010 10:45 AM
    You did not get a permit you got caught, you have to pay. I have problem with that. Using Google Earth should not be an issue, anyone can use it, why not the township.
  • 20 Hide
    welshmousepk , August 4, 2010 10:49 AM
    No, i would agree that this is an invasion of privacy.

    its irrelevant what crime a person is or is not guilty of, this is the equivalent of planting a camera in a persons home to catch them illegally downloading movies. i'm sure this cannot be legal.


  • 18 Hide
    vizzie , August 4, 2010 11:00 AM
    How is this less legal than someone who works for the municipality walking past gardens to check for pools? It's just more efficient.
  • 15 Hide
    Raid3r , August 4, 2010 11:00 AM
    Its a hole with water and all was peachy because of PRIVACY fences..I guess we are going to have to start building privacy overheads now..oh wait that's ANOTHER permit...from the city with love.
  • 11 Hide
    anamaniac , August 4, 2010 11:01 AM
    back_by_demandAs no-one was asked permission for Google to photograph from orbit, could the usage of the pictures constitute an illegal search?See you in court.

    I support this.

    If I want to build a pool in my backyard, they only thing I'll do is call the city to make sure there isn't any water/gas pipes (which shouldn't even be a issue, because they put them under the roads here).
    I fully, honestly believe that, if I think a law is complete BS, then I'll ignore it (it's illegal to spit on the ground or even a trashcan in my city).

    This sounds like someone is just trying to catch lawbreakers, not actually trying to catch those who are harming society.
  • 9 Hide
    hillarymakesmecry , August 4, 2010 11:09 AM
    The revenuers are calling!
  • 11 Hide
    ssddx , August 4, 2010 11:23 AM
    "Riverhead's chief building inspector Leroy Barnes Jr. said that permits are required to ensure that all pools meet safety requirements."

    No, what they really want is to add the value to your home to increase their tax revenue. I can see having an inspection of your pool, but its pretty bad when you need a permit just to change shingles on your home.

    Using google earth could be seen as an invasion of privacy as stated prior. As for the inspectors "walking by" if they came on your property they would be tresspassing and we all know how legal that is. I'll stick with the catch me if you can slogan for BS township ideas like this.
  • 15 Hide
    LORD_ORION , August 4, 2010 11:54 AM
    LOL, the permits are used to fill coffers. IF some guy does show up, he'll inspect for 5 minutes before saying OK looks good.
  • 1 Hide
    nezzymighty , August 4, 2010 11:59 AM
    anamaniac ... I fully, honestly believe that, if I think a law is complete BS, then I'll ignore it ... This sounds like someone is just trying to catch lawbreakers, not actually trying to catch those who are harming society.


    Ultimately, you can choose which laws to obey. But this doesn't preclude you from those laws. These individuals committed crimes. They must pay the penalties according to those offenses. They are harming society because they are not following the letter of the law. Case in point - if your child dies as a result of these standards they didn't follow, that inspectors would have deemed hazardous and requiring correction, then the onus falls on them who broke the law to pay the price. The law is the law.

    If you decide you are above the law, and start to choose which laws to obey, how many more laws will you begin to ignore as your morals degrade. As the only perfect man said when he walked this earth: "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much."
  • 9 Hide
    myriad46 , August 4, 2010 12:00 PM
    ssddx"Riverhead's chief building inspector Leroy Barnes Jr. said that permits are required to ensure that all pools meet safety requirements."No, what they really want is to add the value to your home to increase their tax revenue. I can see having an inspection of your pool, but its pretty bad when you need a permit just to change shingles on your home. Using google earth could be seen as an invasion of privacy as stated prior. As for the inspectors "walking by" if they came on your property they would be tresspassing and we all know how legal that is. I'll stick with the catch me if you can slogan for BS township ideas like this.


    Pools often decrease home value. The permit (and inspection process) are to ensure that the enclosure for the pool is up to code. That is so that when your 2 year old wanders into your neighbors yard where they just installed a pool with no fence, you won't find them floating face down.

    If it can't be seen from the road, it's over stepping their jurisdiction. Maybe they should buy a helicopter.
  • 6 Hide
    sykozis , August 4, 2010 12:01 PM
    vizzieHow is this less legal than someone who works for the municipality walking past gardens to check for pools? It's just more efficient.


    In some towns/cities/etc, the police/regulatory agency/etc are restricted to what's in view without the homeowner's conscent. So, say they walk past your house...you have an "illegal" pool in your backyard. If it's in "plain view" of the street....you're SOL. If you have a 6" fence blocking the view of said pool, the police/regulatary agency/etc is SOL because it'd be considered trespassing for them to enter the property without your permission. The same should apply to the use of Google Earth. You have no given Google concent to photograph your property, thus making the action an invasion of privacy. Which would prohibit the police/regulatory agency/etc from legally using Google Earth to further invade your privacy.

    BTW, Google has been sued over photography people's property without conscent in the past....and LOST. By law, in most states anyway, if there's a "No Trespassing" sign in place...it's illegal to enter the property in any manor...including aerial/orbital photographs.
  • 0 Hide
    Kaiser_25 , August 4, 2010 12:01 PM
    ya economy is tight, this is just another way to generate revinue...
  • -7 Hide
    shanky887614 , August 4, 2010 12:15 PM
    why do you need a permit to dig a hole in your garden and then fill with water?

    its not like it affects anything
  • 3 Hide
    awood28211 , August 4, 2010 12:17 PM
    "Riverhead's chief building inspector Leroy Barnes Jr. said that permits are required to ensure that all pools meet safety requirements."

    Correction:

    "Riverhead's chief building inspector Leroy Barnes Jr. said that permits are required to ensure that...we can properly tax and fee all residents to our greatest extent."
  • 1 Hide
    ajcroteau , August 4, 2010 12:24 PM
    It won't be long till each of us are implemented with an RFID tracking chip implanted under our skin...
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