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Surveillance Tips for the Everyday Person

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The whole point of surveillance is to watch, collect proof or information, and do it all without being seen. Whether you’re watching an elk on a hunt or a suspect on a case, the key to successful surveillance is to gather evidence or proof without being seen. There are specific skills you should sharpen when conducting surveillance and some things you should avoid doing during surveillance. Let’s dive deeper into these surveillance tips with the approach that you are new to the game.

(Photo by iStock)

Successful Surveillance Tips

Surveillance can be conducted for a variety of reasons. It could be finding that perfect spot to find an elk for your hunt. It could be performed because you are an investigator looking for a subject or because you are nosey. No matter your reason, there are certain ways to conduct good surveillance. 

As mentioned before, the biggest point to remember is don’t be seen. One of the easiest ways to fail at surveillance is to be too close. In the hunting setting, if you approach an animal too closely, they will run. Your chances of finding them or getting another opportunity to be that close will lessen. You want to stay pretty far away until you have found the right animal and area to close in on. When you get to the point of being close, it’s suggested to stay at least a couple of hundred yards away still. 

The same principle can be used for conducting surveillance on a person or vehicle. You need to see the person or car without losing them or them seeing you. When you find that midpoint of being far enough away without being too far, you find the perfect distance. 

That’s not Magnum P.I.

Let’s say you are a Private Investigator following a cheating spouse for a client. One of the first steps is to find out that person’s routine. You need to know where you can find them and where you are going before you go. Part of finding out their routine ahead of time is so that you can plan the best route to follow them or figure out what the best way to follow them is based on that route. For instance, if the directions they take to work are on open roads with little traffic, you must consider that when you are following them. If it is difficult to remain unseen while still having eyes on the subject, follow them on a different day. 

Another point to consider is the vehicle you use to conduct surveillance or follow someone. If you own a bright red, custom-style pickup, and a small, beige sedan, the sedan should be the vehicle you choose. It is also recommended that your car has tinted windows. Some private investigation firms will ensure their employees have nondescript vehicles with dark windows. 

Following a suspect without blowing your cover is paramount to a proper surveillance operation.
(Photo by iStock)

Blending In

When conducting surveillance, you also want to avoid following or watching the person at the same time and the exact location every day. Doing this will get you noticed quickly, and once your cover is blown, there is no going back.

You mustn’t be obvious at any point. Not only will your cover be blown, but if you are trying to catch someone in the act, chances are they will change their behavior if they know they are being watched. 

It is best to blend in, whether on foot or in a car. Do not draw attention to yourself. Scout out your surroundings beforehand and try to blend in. For Private Investigators, you never know how the person you follow will react. Your best bet is to remain unnoticed and unseen to stay safe.

If you happen to find yourself being seen, remove yourself from that location as safely as possible. For instance, if you are following someone in a vehicle and think they have noticed you, go down a different street or take another route. It is best to avoid confrontation and remove yourself from the area safely. 

Surveillance Done Right!

The most successful surveillance is done quietly, methodically, and professionally. It is equally important to maintain logs, gather proof, and be able to verify your findings. Private Investigators keep logs stating what they did and when, as well as what they observed and when. These logs are partly for report purposes but also help determine the best time to conduct surveillance.

 For example, if you are a PI and you are tasked with figuring out an illusive individual’s routine to serve them court paperwork, you will have to determine when the best time to find them potentially. That being said if you are given information that they may be at one location in the morning hours, and you go and set up surveillance with no luck, you will need to narrow down the best window of time to find that person. 

The Silent Professional

Successful surveillance also depends on the types of tools and equipment you have. Some of the most helpful devices include voice recorders, body cameras, vehicle cameras, a good digital camera with a telescope lens, and binoculars. Each of these items can help you set up the best surveillance possible. After all, if you are a Private Investigator hired to do a job, you must prove you have accomplished your task. You should practice with your equipment if you are new to the field. There is nothing worse than finding the proof you need and not being able to document it to prove it later. 

If you are conducting surveillance, especially in a professional capacity, it is always best to gather more proof and intel than you need. You never know when something you saw, and at the time thought was trivial, may be extremely important. Investigators thrive on gut intuition. If something seems off or significant, it probably is or will be. 

Having The Right Tools

One of the most important surveillance tips we can give you is to have good equipment, collect more proof than you need, be safe, and remain unseen! Wear unremarkable clothing if you are on foot. Drive a car that will go unnoticed if you are in a vehicle. If you follow these rules, you should be able to conduct surveillance as best as possible.

Now that you’ve mastered the art of surveillance, you’re ready to Travel Like A Spy!
Learn ti travel like a spy with this Skillset survival guide.
(Photo by iStock)

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