Surveillance by its nature is an intuitive art, however there are scientific components that need to be mastered in order to accentuate the artistic element and become a surveillance professional. The basic equipment necessary to implement a surveillance project as a private investigator working on behalf of a client for a legitimate reason are pre- surveillance data, binoculars, video camcorder and a good attitude. Auxiliary equipment can include maps, cell phone, global navigation system and global positioning system tracking. The following seven points are helpful in conducting surveillance activities:-
- Pre-surveillance information is paramount to the effectiveness of the surveillance. It will determine how it is devised, determining the best times, locations, methods, risks, etc., associated with case.
- Proper assessment and preparation of the equipment necessary for the project. All equipment should be double checked for functioning, adequate battery power and having extra batteries and other accessories available as needed.
- If the case requires mobile surveillance, vehicles should be in optimum working condition, all fluids at maximum reservoir level, good tire pressure, windshield clean and steps taken to reduce the vehicle occupant being seen. Depending on the laws in the jurisdiction, window tinting, using a curtain behind the front seats, etc. are basic steps to accomplish the objective.
- A non-descriptive vehicle is helpful. A vehicle that is common and consistent with the neighborhood in terms of make and model. There should be no physical damage or alteration that would make the vehicle stand out or attract unsolicited attention.
- A pedestrian surveillance is more inclined to require multiple investigators to be successful and requiring covert methods of communication to coordinate and maintain the observation. Being relaxed, yet alert is necessary and not bringing undue attention to oneself through manner of dress, body language and visibility of communication or covert video capturing devices.
- Being patient. Unfortunately, it is a requirement, although not scientific. It can determine the effectiveness of all the other components.
- There is always another day, hopefully. This is also not scientific, but do not compromise the surveillance because of eagerness, taking unnecessary chances or impatience. The investigation can be continued another time as long as the subject does not know you are out there, the budget allows it or the window of opportunity has not closed.
The actual methods used to implement the art and science of surveillance is completely dependent on the case parameter and the investigator’s competency. It is a product of logging multiple surveillance hours under various conditions and finding what works for you and what you are comfortable doing. All the other components provide a frame work and tools of assistance, but a successful surveillance operation is contingent on a combination of these and the indispensible skill of the professional surveillance investigator.