Surveillance is the deliberate observation and collection of information such as people or business movements, actions, and behaviors on media such as digital video, digital photographs, or written notes. It is the process of continuous watching in a covert or clandestine manner that limits the surveillance operative’s exposure to the subject. Good surveillance operators succeed in becoming the “grey person” and not being noticed/compromised by the subject or a third party. Remaining unnoticed increases the likelihood that the subject of surveillance will act naturally, therefore increasing the potential to collect the required information.
Who uses Surveillance?
Surveillance is currently employed on many levels. The military employs surveillance tools including satellites, communications and listening equipment, and human personnel to collect information on enemy forces. Local law enforcement use undercover operatives, plain clothes officers, and increasingly, social media to build an intelligence picture and collect evidence regarding criminal activity. Professional Private Investigators have more constrained options in what they can legally do within a surveillance task.
What are the objectives of Surveillance?
A private investigator will place a subject under surveillance in order to monitor where they go, what they do, who the meet, when they do it, how they do it, and why the do it. Generally we are focused on:
Surveillance is conducted more effectively with two or more surveillance operatives operating as a team. It is a commonly held belief that conducting surveillance with only one operative will likely result in either the subject escaping the surveillance net or the surveillance operative spending too much “face time” with the subject and ultimately getting noticed or “burnt”.
Example: A client has tasked Steve’s Investigations Inc. to conduct 20 hours surveillance on Jane Doe. Steve locates Jane’s residence at 6am and begins his surveillance. Steve sits in his car and observes Jane’s residence for 8 hours and nothing happens. Steve is tired, bored and falls asleep. Suddenly Jane exits the residents, jumps in her car and drives off. Steve wakes up 5 minutes later and realizes the subject has left and has nothing to report to the client after 8 hours of surveillance.
The next day Steve returns to Jane’s residence at 6am and begins surveillance. Shortly afterwards a neighbor notices the same vehicle parked on the street opposite Jane’s house. Steve waits for another 7 hours until finally Jane emerges, jumps in her car and drives off. Steve follows for some time until he is cut off in traffic by a truck and Jane loses Steve at the lights. Now Steve has conducted 15 hours of surveillance with nothing to show the client.
The following day Steve returns for the last 5 hours of surveillance. He parks on the same street, in the same car, and the same neighbour notices Steve’s presence. After 4 hours Jane meets the neighbour and they both enter Jane’s car and leave to go for coffee. Steve follows, but within minutes Jane suddenly speeds up and once again loses Steve, his cover has been blown, so too has the Client’s money and time spent on surveillance.
Perhaps if the Client had hired an additional Surveillance operative Steve would not have fallen asleep and lost Jane on the first day. If the Client had hired more surveillance operatives on the second day, a second operative could have been ahead of the truck, keeping a tail on Jane. Finally, if the client had hired more than one surveillance operative then Steve could observe Jane’s residence from the back of a Van and signal her departure to a second operative to maintain surveillance on Jane, and reduce Steve’s exposure to the subject.
At the end of the day it is the client’s decision how many operatives to hire. An ethical Private Investigation service should inform the client of the all the pros and cons regarding surveillance options. It is not unusual for Investigative Firm to recommend the use of multiple surveillance operatives and then be guided by the Client’s final decision.
What types of Surveillance can a Private Investigator do?
Foot Surveillance – Is carried out on foot following the subject at a discreet distance in order not to be noticed but to maintain observation. This can include following the subject from their car into a mall, shopping centre, gym, etc. This surveillance may require the operative to get close to the subject to gather information such as the subject’s final destination. Foot surveillance often requires the operative to blend into their environment.
Static Surveillance – Can be conducted in a rural or urban setting, from a house, building, van, car, and in some cases, an ‘observation hide’. The purpose of Static surveillance is to collect information, provide a rolling commentary to other operatives, or signal the start of a Mobile surveillance operation.
Public Transport Surveillance – Is mostly carried out on foot with additional support from operatives in vehicles. It relies heavily on sound communication. Subjects include taxis, private hire cars, buses, underground and above ground rail, and ferries.
Technical Surveillance – technical surveillance is the process of collecting information through the use of technical devices such as Vehicle Trackers, Radio Micro Phones, Tape Recorders and Microphones, Telephone Monitoring Devices, Covert Video Recorders, and Computer Intercepts. Although extremely effective at gathering information, most of these technical aides are either Illegal or heavily regulated in terms of civilian private use. In most cases the use of some of these devices can constitute a civil and/or criminal offence in Canada.
Our Investigators at Six Technologies Victoria and STI Investigations and Intelligence Group are experienced Surveillance operatives. If you have any questions regarding Surveillance we are happy to help. Alternatively, for a free initial consultation call us on 1 (250) 661 9551, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.