These types of investigations may require surveillance.
- Relationship (pre-relationship, romantic & domestic)
- Child custody
- Worker's compensation & insurance claims
- Employee theft
Important! Of all these, non-professionals should attempt only Relationship Investigations surveillance. All other cases should be handled by the pros.
Who Should Attempt Surveillance?
You can follow and observe someone you know, but to do so you must take extreme cautions. If the target is known to you, you might be better off to hire a trained PI, or recruit a friend or two to do the surveillance for you.
Evidence Gathering for Court
If you conduct surveillance for the purpose of gathering evidence to be presented in court, your timed and dated notes, videotapes, and photographs will have much more credibility with judge and jury if there was a witness present who is willing to testify on your behalf.
Types of Surveillance
There are two types of surveillance: tailing, or shadowing (on foot, or by private and public transportation), and fixed surveillance - also called "the stakeout."
Gather all information about the target's habits and haunts before you attempt surveillance. Know the neighborhood you'll be working. Plan possible routes your target might take. Cover yourself by preparing an alternative plan you can put into action should things suddenly go awry. If you've done your homework, you may be able to reestablish a tail even if you lose it.
The more research you do the better. Get to know the neighborhood. Find out where you can sit, where you can be. Learn to be patient.
Learn how to get off the street. One technique is to sit on the driver's side and not the street side: you're waiting for someone. Or, sit in the back seat and slump down.
A female is nowhere near as obtrusive as a male. Obviously she's waiting for her husband.
The kind of stakeout you perform will be determined by the area in which you'll be working. A neighbor's home, a hotel or motel room, an associate's office - these are but a few of the stakeout positions from which you can observe, take photos, and videotape what transpires.
A stakeout is most often accomplished in a car, van, or truck. A comfortable room or an office from which to watch your target would be optimum, but that kind of observation post is generally difficult to arrange. In a quiet neighborhood, you are always more conspicuous than if parked, walking, or standing on a busy city street. In a run-down section of the city, nothing but old cars parked on the street, your shiny new car will stand out and attract attention. Think about borrowing or renting an older car to use in these areas. In nicer residential areas, curious residents will notice you sitting in your automobile and will come by to check you out. Or they'll call the police, who, if they arrive, will question you and ask you to leave.
Perform a reconnaissance to familiarize yourself with the area before beginning the stakeout.
Also, Do These Things:
- Top off the gas tank in case you have to follow your target a distance.
- Check all exits of the house, apartment, or office building you intend to observe.
- Wear comfortable clothing that will blend in, clothes the target will not recognize.
- Wear sunglasses and a baseball cap to disguise your face and hair.
Anticipate where target is going; change to clothing appropriate to the environment, i.e. bathing suit at the beach, dressy clothes in a fancy restaurant.
On The Scene
If possible, park in front of a store, bar, or service station. Slide over to the passenger side or slump down in the back seat: You’re waiting for someone while reading a road map or newspaper. Surveillance takes time; learn to be patient. You may be sitting in one spot for a long while. Minimize eating and drinking to alleviate the need to break surveillance to locate a bathroom.
Take along a couple of changes of clothes to fit in where your subject might be going.
Prepare a cover story in case you're spotted, identified and questioned. The cover story you prepare for the police or a suspicious neighbor may not be a good cover story for your target if he or she spots you.
Read the complete "Surveillance Techniques" article.
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