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Surveillance Investigation Skills and Techniques

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As a Private Investigator, your operation has the potential of going belly-up the moment you get caught. Surveillance can be tricky, especially in a world where people are increasingly on the lookout for privacy invasions and have grown wary of strangers. Here are a few tips for going unnoticed when performing surveillance-related investigation duties. 

Before proceeding, know that you should always follow local trespassing and privacy laws. Everyone has rights and they need to be respected. This ensures you are operating in a compliant manner, plus any evidence gathered during your investigation will be obtained legally.

Fit In

We’ve all heard the saying, “hiding in plain sight.” Whether you’re observing your subject from a coffee house or in your car parked on the side of the street, you need to have a reason for being where you are that makes you blend into the crowd. An optimal way to do this is to create a character (pretend to be a commuter when tracking them on a bus, for instance). Don’t wear flashy clothes, don’t be interesting and attention-grabbing, and try to avoid making eye contact. Always be in a place where you can see the surveillance target without difficulty, as you don’t want to lose them. 

Bring the Right Equipment and Document Your Findings

Most smartphones come equipped with voice recorders and high-definition cameras. It’s far easier to get caught carrying a DSLR camera because not everyone carries one, and therefore it’s an eye-catcher. You may be able to get by with a quick stroll near your target with this camera, but if you repeatedly appear before them, they’ll notice you. Also invest in a low-key car like a Toyota Corolla. Cars that are widely available and driven by practically everyone are less noticeable than big vans or expensive vehicles.

Also, document, document, document. That includes dates and times of important events, what is going on in the photos taken, and a more detailed summary of voice recordings when you have the time. Bring a notebook. Have a place for it in your car for easy storage, or make sure it’s small enough to be tucked away unseen. 

Observe and Anticipate

Lastly, ensure you’ve mapped out the areas that your target usually spends time in so that you aren’t ever too close to them. If you know the route they’ll take towards their house and away from it, park along one of the streets on that route instead of in front of the door. Always anticipate action as well. This will allow you to get gear out, such as your phone, to capture important evidence in time. If you start taking your phone out before an event actually starts, it will also seem less suspicious.

Our team at the Smith Investigation Agency offers online training for those seeking to become certified, efficient, and legally compliant Private Investigators. Contact us today to learn more about our curriculum.

About the Author

Whitney Joy Smith

Founder of The Smith Investigation Agency in 2014, Whitney Joy Smith’s extensive background as a private investigator is matched only by her passion for the role. A graduate of several respected institutions, including Northwest Florida State College and George Brown College, her early years in life were spent between Canada and the United States. This education, along with her formative years as a private investigator in various agencies, informed much of her knowledge of private investigative laws, regulations, and operating standards in both countries.

The recipient of numerous industry awards and accolades, including the Consumers Choice Award, Best in Ottawa, and many others, Whitney takes pride in working closely with her ever-growing agency to raise the bar, maintain compliance, and meet the investigative needs of clients. Whitney is active in various membership and supporting roles, including the CPIRC, CBN, CAPI, Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and many others. Her experience-driven, thought-provoking articles have been featured in everything from Readers Digest to Business News Daily, and she strives to continually redefine standards for those in the private investigative and security fields. Learn more about Whitney and the team at The Smith Investigation Agency today.