Google Street View Catches illegal Tree Cutters

Three people in Vancouver are charged with illegal tree-cutting, and the case against them has the option of using pictures taken by a Google Street View camera which happened to be operating in the neighborhood and recorded the scene. The Google Street View shows the truck and workmen on the site, which was littered with tree debris as well as the fresh cut stumps along the property’s fence line.

Charges filed against the land owner, Margaret Burnyeat, her daughter, Elizabeth Burnyeat and Michael Saffronick of Saffronick Tree Care Ltd. claim they exceeded the terms of their permit to remove two trees and violated the old tree bylaw by allegedly cutting down 23 cedar, cypress and evergreen trees on a residential lot. After the neighbors filed complaints, the city of Vancouver’s legal department investigation discovered the Google Earth pictures.

There has been no decision to use the Google Street View, but City official Theresa Beer said, “Our city’s legal department is aware of that. How they will use that as evidence, I’m not clear. But it is an interesting new dimension, perhaps, of legal evidence.” Penalties between $500 to $20,000 per tree are possible. “[The] two trees that were properly permitted were taken off the total of the trees that fall under the tree bylaw,” Beer said. Even though a new tree bylaw became effective on January 1, 2010, the charges apply under the old bylaw since the original permit was filed with the City of Vancouver on May 14, 2009.

Google Street View Catches illegal Tree Cutters

Google Street View Catches illegal Tree Cutters


Comments

  1. Mike Galvin says:

    This is a great story. Kudos to city officials for diligence in adminstering the program. Legislation is just words on a page without proper administration and enforcement.

  2. M Btok says:

    What happened to Canadian Privacy Rights?
    Do Canadian citizens have to put up with Google Satellite Cameras zooming in our privacy and stool pigeoning on our activities inside our property? Or even on public streets etc.? The Google cameras in this story alerted city enforcement on these trees! But what if you decided to cut trees down in your own yard? Would you get arrested? Next thin you know “Big Brothers”, Cameras will be in our bedrooms! Do you think we should start protesting before this gets out of hand?
    http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100129/bc_google_trees_100129/20100129?hub=BritishColumbia
    The former owner of a southwest Vancouver home and her daughter have been accused of cutting down 23 trees on the property — even though they only had a permit to cut two of them.
    Not only have they been charged with illegally removing the trees, which could result in thousands of dollars in fines, the tree cutting act appears to have been caught on camera.
    A specially-equipped car used to build Google’s Street View feature captured an image of the Olympic Street property just as the cedars, cypress and evergreens were being axed last year.
    “Maybe there is somebody upstairs watching,” chuckled neighbourhood resident Betty Cosar.
    The tree cutting really got residents riled up. They’re the ones who reported it to the city.
    Jennifer Wade said the trees used to give her backyard some privacy. But not anymore.
    “It was a very sad thing to hear the trees being cut. To think, great, oxygen-giving trees were coming down — thud, thud,” Wade said.
    Former homeowner Margaret Burnyeat and her daughter Elizabeth, and landscaper Michael Safronick, have been charged with illegally removing the trees.
    None of them could be reached for comment Friday.
    They are due back in court in June.
    It’s unclear whether the Google images will be used as evidence.
    Meanwhile, the new homeowners have already put the house back on the market. It sits empty.

  3. Martini says:

    I am a disaffected American, and this shines more light on how much better Canada is with their policies in many of the places I wish we were. I cant tell you how much forest has been clear-cut here. If you have the $, you can buy a forest, cut down all the trees for sale, build a subdivision where the only greenery are sparse baby trees, grass and shrubs, and never lose a dime. Pure profit, no risk. The American way of freedom seems wild west. To have little to no regulation where it would serve a great benifit to the national economy, consumers and their very ways of life, the aesthetics of our cities and neighborhoods, and the environment as a whole. Study an ecosystem someday. F*** such destruction of it. New Orleans used to be above sea level and 20 miles from the ocean. Raping the Ole’ Miss stopped silt flows to the delta and its washing away. Wetlands don’t just grow by water, they are a sensitive ecosystem. In this case, remove the silt and it has nothing replacing the erosion. Beautiful bayous used to protect it. I guess some people don’t mind the loss, they love their lives of warm and bug free excess and loath nature for how uncomfortable it is to them..

  4. Martini says:

    Requiring a permit does great things for other people, though maybe not so much your pocket. Think of what your actions will do to those others. Unless you don’t plain care. Beautiful trees should be seen as that, worth their value in beauty and variety they bring. Cutting down epic trees lowers the property value of not only your property but that of those around you who also now see an eyesore in their face. Did you think of that? Maybe. Would it bother you, probably not. It’s yours. Grow up.