Perhaps the most important part of an investigation is the surveillance ritual, where an investigator observes to obtain a wider scope and insight about a case, and although every investigator has their own way of doing surveillance, there are certain things that can be done to make the process more effective, safer and thorough.
1. Client Scope
Even before heading out to start an investigation, more than paying attention to a client’s needs, it’s imperial to ask as many questions as possible to fully grasp the situation at hand. A rookie mistake is to not ask enough questions, to avoid looking like an amateur in the field, however missing the most general details can hold you back from a successful investigation.
2. Check Out the Area Prior to Surveillance
While holding an investigation, an investigator’s first priority should be to stay safe. In order to do so, before heading to the location from where the surveillance will take place, it’s important to get a sneak peak of the environment and check out Google Maps, Google Earth or any other type of maps that provides satellite images to help you get acquainted with a place much before you get there. This will ensure you know what to expect when you arrive at the place of surveillance and you have checked all exit routes and roads to help keep you safe. This will also help to choose a strategic surveillance spot before arriving at the scene.
3. ‘On Time’ is Always Late
When it comes to surveillance, an investigator that is ‘on time’ will always be considered as being late to the scene. Human behavior is practically unpredictable, which is why even though you think you may know a target’s schedule and routine, you should aim for always starting your work day early. The most interesting findings often occur outside of one’s normal daily routine, so be prepared to watch your target even though your client may have already given you insight about your target’s daily proceedings.
4. Select Your Surveillance Vehicle
A vehicle is a private investigator’s most necessary surveillance tool, because it will be needed to follow a target and get an investigator from point A to point B of an investigation. Furthermore, it’s exactly what will keep an investigator concealed during surveillance. As staying concealed is of the highest importance, an investigator must be mindful to not use a vehicle that stands out too much and can be easy to forget if spotted. Dull colors and tinted windows are some of the features that a surveillance vehicle must not miss.
5. Choosing a Strategic Surveillance Spot
This is one of the reasons why satellite images are so important to consider before arriving at the surveillance spots. Unless you have checked out the area prior to the investigation, you will be out of depth when it comes to choosing a spot where you will position yourself during the investigation. Avoid parking too close to a target’s location and stay at a safe distance that would not make anyone notice you immediately if they were to look outside. Park on the direction of the road that allows you to make a quick exit, if necessary, so that you can catch up to your target if they happen to leave their location or so that you can get away.
6. Avoid Distractions
A rookie investigator may think that alone time in a vehicle is the perfect time to catch up on some reading or social media, but this could not be any more wrong. Avoid taking distractions such as books, cell phones or tablets that you may use for recreational purposes in order to stay focused on your target. You never know when something unexpected may occur, so it’s important to stay alert and aware of your surroundings.
7. Meal and Bathroom Breaks
This point is basically mute, because well, there won’t exactly be any meal or bathroom breaks. As you will be unable to leave the area under surveillance, you will have to prepare your snacks and meals to eat during the surveillance period without leaving the scene or your car. When it comes to bathroom breaks, private investigators have to get creative, as they must stay in place no matter what once the investigation has begun.
8. Professional Recording Equipment
As a professional investigator you must provide your clients with proof of surveillance and evidence of a target’s wrongdoings. For this, you will have to invest in reliable photography and recording equipment so that you can provide video and pictures of any evidence you have collected or of any suspicious activity. This will also help to document your investigation and keep an activity diary. Invest in both quality equipment and the appropriate classes to learn to handle your equipment effectively.
9. Surveillance on the Move
It is not rare or strange to have to follow a target in order to keep up with their daily activities. While on the move, be on the lookout for clues you may grasp from the target’s vehicle, such as bumper stickers, license plate information, brake light shape and any damage that may be visible to the vehicle. This will help you find the target again in case you lose them in traffic.
10. Professional Report
It’s not all about fancy video recording and sitting out eating snacks all day, in order to deliver a professional investigation, you must provide a well-written professional report. This is because private investigator reports are often used in court as evidence, therefore the reports must be written in a clear and concise manner that is ready to use in court.
By following these 10 tips you will be ready to get started in the surveillance field. Remember to stay safe while you’re out on a case and put your safety and well-being before anyone else’s so that you can continue to help those in need of your services.