(KMOV) -- Chicago-area police say burglars have been using Google Maps to pick their targets, and it only took a few clicks. Captured burglars have admitted to police that they found homes by doing a Google search for "expensive homes along highways."
"[The suspect] took it a step further; went to Google Earth, and he was able to zero in with the satellites on the homes and streets he wanted to burglarize," Curt Novak with the Indian Head Park, Illinois Police Department said.
"Yeah, there are so many satellite imaging companies. You're going to find that the criminals are more apt to use that because it's easier for them,"
And crooks can case the house and its surroundings, like where the closest exit is and where they can keep a get-away car -- all with a few clicks of a mouse.
"There are so many different ways you can search that will hone you right in on what looks like you'll bank the most," Det. Gary McIntyre said.
Police say it's hard to keep up with every new website and tool that criminals might use.
"So the best thing to do is do what you did before computers -- just make sure your house is secure, make sure you're picking up the newspapers and make it look occupied," Det. Carbray said.
Computer experts say you can opt out of Google Maps information that's too personal. Here's how to request that Google blur your home's image:
Det. Bret Carbray said. "It's right there in their house. They don't have to travel around to drive by the area, to search for houses that they can break into."
1. Go to Google.com and click on Maps.
2. Enter your home address into the search box.
3. Once your home is located, click the red dot that represents your house.
4. Click Street View.
5. Adjust Google Maps Street View until you see your house.
6. Click the Report a Problem link at the bottom-left corner of the Street View image.
7. Click Privacy Concerns, then click My House, then click I Have Found a Picture of My House and Would Like It Removed.
8. Type your privacy concerns into the Please Describe the Problem box .
9. Type your email address into the Email Address box.
10. Click the Submit button at the bottom of the Web page.
Then, give Google time to respond. But remember, Google is not the only online company that offers satellite mapping.
Police say that crook was behind at least nine robberies of homes since March, netting about $100,000 in stolen televisions, jewelry and other electronics.
That crime hasn't happened here yet, but police warn that it could -- especially since police say satellite technology makes it easier for criminals to case a neighborhood.
Police in Lake St. Louis have their eye on this. They say communities across the country are seeing an uptick in burglaries and thefts, due in part to the down economy, and the targets -- more and more -- are affluent neighborhoods.
You can Google anything for answers, and police say, that includes where criminals might find the best score.
I asked Lake St. Louis Police detectives if they thought this is something that could trend among criminals.
News 4 is keeping an eye on a new, high-tech crime trend targeting affluent neighborhoods.