The Art Of Surveillance

One of the primary skills that a private investigator needs to possess is that of the skill of surveillance. In fact, a large amount of the work that a private investigator carries out will be in relation to surveillance; as such, this means that being skilled in the art of surveillance is essential for anyone looking to become a professional private investigator.

What Is Surveillance

While one might hear the art of surveillance commonly mentioned in the private investigator industry, for someone just starting out in the role, it can be a little hard to understand what surveillance entails. Similarly, for clients of a private investigator, understanding the nature of surveillance work will help them to be reassured that their private investigator is doing everything in their power to deliver to them the services that have been requested. But what is surveillance? At its simplest, the answer to the question of “what is surveillance” is relatively straightforward and easy to explain. In fact, as a general explanation, surveillance is exactly what it sounds like: watching someone. Far from being the ‘creepy’ act that such a thought brings to mind, though, surveillance in the private investigator industry is far more sophisticated and professional; when a private investigator carries out surveillance work, they are instead monitoring the activities of an individual—in the event of trying to uncover evidence against the aforementioned party—or the goings-on in a certain location of some relevance (such as a crime scene) in order to find information that can be useful in the client’s case.

Why Is Surveillance Important?

Many people feel a little queasy at the thought of “being watched”, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth; if someone has nothing to hide then they should be at no risk of being surveilled themselves. However, in the event that something bad has happened—be it a crime or otherwise an event that requires evidence to be collected against an otherwise dishonest individual—then surveillance can be incredibly important for society’s safety as a whole. Without private investigators carrying out skilled and professional surveillance, catching notorious criminals would be nearly impossible, be it for petty theft or for a more serious crime, such as murder or anything equally heinous. Similarly, when a person has gone missing—be it that they have run away or have otherwise been taken against their will and kidnapped—surveillance can be vital in regards to tracing them down and getting them the help that they need to live a free and happy life once again. Surveillance is also important in family dispute cases and the like, where surveillance can be used to help build a better picture for the investigator of the current situation and any problems that might need attention. An additional scenario wherein surveillance services might be deemed to be necessary are in those cases of compensation claims against an employer. These claims can often be hard to fight and win without the relevant evidence and so surveillance services can prove to be vital in regards to finding evidence that proves the worker’s injuries were resulting from negligence and accidents in the workplace.

Overt Surveillance vs Covert Surveillance

There are two types of surveillance: over and covert surveillance. These two different types of surveillance are often confused by people who are not directly involved in the private investigator industry and as such, are useful terms to be able to use and understand. But what are the differences between overt surveillance vs covert surveillance?

Overt Surveillance

Overt surveillance is generally surveillance which is “readily provided” to the private investigator. These types of surveillance generally include first person accounts from guards and other security personnel and security camera recordings, both of which are known to be in use by the public and are strategically placed in order to help protect the general public from harm. On the whole, overt surveillance strategies are generally well accepted by the public as being for their own good.

Covert Surveillance

Unlike overt surveillance, which is carried out with the public’s full knowledge, covert surveillance is a little more of a grey area. In covert surveillance, information is gathered about an individual without their knowing so; this is generally carried out by an undercover private investigator, often one who might pose as a different person in order to gauge a reaction or the like. In addition, covert surveillance can also include tactics such as the GPS monitoring of a person’s device or vehicle, or otherwise directly following them in order to gain direct evidence. It is important to note that, despite the bad reputation that covert surveillance often gets, it is not actually a bad practice in and of its. Indeed, in the debate of overt surveillance vs covert surveillance, one thing that both practices have in common is that they always fall entirely within the rules set out by the law.

How To Carry Out Surveillance: What You Need To Know

Surveillance is a skill that is developed over time and is most definitely not something that an individual can pick up “just like that”; indeed, surveillance is something that takes time to master and this means that a new private investigator should never hope to be an expert at doing so on their first attempt.

Understand the Background Knowledge

Surveillance is not easy; it is an incredibly challenging field of work for even the most skilled private investigators. Quality surveillance requires a thorough understanding of the individual, the location, or the objects in question in order to be carried out effectively. Without being able to interpret the data or preempt an individual’s next move—knowledge that is gathered from having an understanding of the person in question’s personality in advance—a private investigator would have a very hard time carrying out effective surveillance. As such, getting all of the available background information in advance is absolutely necessary for anyone looking to uncover the truth through the use of private surveillance services.

Know Your Skills and Weaknesses

As part of the art of surveillance and learning how to carry out surveillance as a private investigator, you need to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of your target person/place/object and of your own skills and abilities. Every private investigator will have their own methods for conducting surveillance that work with their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses; no one is perfect and so being aware of—and working with—your flaws will help you to be successful. One weakness that should always be avoided, though, is that of self inflicted weaknesses; these can include a lack of sleep, poor nutrition and dietary habits, and the like. Make preparations in advance in order to ensure that you are worked at your very sharpest—because one of the most important skills in surveillance is being able to pick up on the smallest details.

Check The Legalities

There is no point in carrying out surveillance if you are only going to find yourself getting fined or otherwise imprisoned for breaking the law. There are a number of different laws in place that are designed to protect the privacy of the general public and a good private investigator should always work within these legalities while carrying out their surveillance. For example, in some US states, there are a number of laws and rules in place that require audio recordings—including video recordings that happen to catch snippets of audio—to have two way consent prior to being taken. The punishment for breaking this law can be incredibly severe, in some cases, and so the importance of checking your local laws and legalities prior to conducting surveillance work is essential. After all, a private investigator is of no use if they are locked away in prison.

In Summary

As a private investigator—or someone looking to hire the help of a private investigator—it is likely that you will be needing to make use of surveillance at some point in time. However, there are many legalities involved with carrying out surveillance and as such, a private investigator should always ensure that they understand the specific requirements and legalities of their state prior to attempting any surveillance. Surveillance is a difficult skill to learn and should always be designed in such a way as to work with the investigator’s unique set of skills and weaknesses. As part of this, a private investigator should also ensure that they are well rested and nourished themselves, so that they are able to focus as well as possible. In addition, it is important for a private investigator to ensure that they have all of the information in advance to starting their surveillance operations, in order to be able to carry out the most effective surveillance possible. Surveillance is tricky, regardless of the investigator’s skills and abilities. However, with the correct plans and equipment, it is possible for the art of surveillance to be applied in such a way as to give the best possible results for both the investigator and their client.