Proper surveillance techniques

When requesting surveillance from a private investigator, it is assumed that the private investigator will see everything that happens, all day, every day at every location. This assumption is just not realistic due to a number of variables.


First off many things happen behind closed doors, in private areas or any number of places where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. The law abiding private investigator will respect this. Additionally you might have a subject who resides in an extremely rural area, making it difficult to conduct direct surveillance without standing out. While following a subject several more factors arise such as traffic lights, traffic conditions and the maneuvers made by other drivers on a daily basis. Think of it this way. Consider your daily commute to and from work and how hectic that can be, then add to it, trying to follow an individual during that commute.


While it is possible for one surveillance investigator to follow a person, it is definitely an advantage to have two or more investigators. A few years ago, we worked a surveillance investigation in a rural area, out of town, on one subject, using one investigator and one vehicle for 20 consecutive days. This is not ideal, but can be done with proper planning and the understanding that when utilizing one person, that surveillance investigator has to be very careful to avoid being burned. With this type of extreme conditions, it is imperative to conduct the surveillance from as great a distance as possible. It is also helpful to gather as much intel about the subject as possible, to know where the subject will be or might be going at any given time.


Utilizing two surveillance investigators or more gives the investigators a much greater chance of success with the investigation. We recently worked a different case, again in a rural area, out of town, where the client authorized two investigators. This was a huge asset to be able to cover various choke points (choke points are places where the subject would have to pass by in order to enter or exit the area). This also allows the investigators to change point vehicles (the vehicle directly behind the subject) so the subject observes a change in vehicles behind him/her, therefore diminishing the possibility that they might become aware of the investigation. When coordinating an investigation like this, it is important to have good communications between the investigators, but just as important is that the investigators think alike and can conduct the surveillance at times virtually without communicating.


Many clients will initiate a surveillance investigation and base that investigation on a set budget. While that is understandable, it is important to communicate all mitigating circumstances to the private investigator, before initiating the surveillance so the necessity of a second investigator can be discussed. As we stated here, it is possible to conduct the investigation with one investigator, but your chances of success increase with each additional investigator added to the case.


So when talking to a private investigator about conducting surveillance, be honest and open about the difficulties they might face, this will give your case the greatest chance of success. This might mean conducting a two-person surveillance, but if it is the difference between a successful investigation and an investigation that cost money, with little or nor results, it is a worthwhile investment.