As a private investigator, I find myself having to use some techniques to gather the right information about a Mark.  For those of you that don’t know what the word “Mark” means.  It refers to the person you are tracking and gathering information.  In general, a good definition of surveillance is openly determining the activities of your mark.  In many cases it’s hiding in plain sight to sitting in a vehicle for hours at a time.  Either way the Art of Surveillance tests your creative thought and investigative skill at their highest levels.  I often find myself working alone and in remote field locations, having to make immediate decisions based on subject activity and field conditions. Getting surveillance results requires patience, and the ability to stay focused on the task.

The Art of Surveillance

  • The Type of Equipment Used
  • Foot Surveillance
  • Vehicle, Mobile Surveillance
  • Stationary Surveillance
  • Face To Face Contact

Equipment Used

Still camera, video camera, file, map, flashlight, Pad and pencil, window covers, binoculars and two way radios, at least one should be portable.  Hats, sunglasses and a change of clothes are also recommended.

Foot Surveillance

One of the most commonly used techniques by investigators is physical surveillance.   Shadowing involves following a person both tightly enough not to lose them ( the common term “Close Tail”), and a far enough distance to avoid detection (Common name “Loose Tail”).  Practice and a good measure of patience are required; I often find myself tailing a mark for hours and even waiting for them to appear.   “Getting Warm” and Being Burned is two terms you should know.  Getting Warm means the Mark suspects that you are following them while Being Burned means the mark knows you are following them.  It is better to lose the “mark” then get burned because it is always possible to pick the trail back up.

One thing I try to remember when conducting my craft is to blend in with the surroundings, which means not carrying things that do no matter.  For example, if you are tailing a Mark in a mall you want to have shopping bags with you.  If you do not blend, you could be “burned”.  If I change your appearance, I do so by putting on or taking off a coat or hat.  This is usually effective, but you also might want to carry a change of clothes in your car just in case. Having one or two pairs of glasses can also help.

I often follow my Marks on foot, and this requires practice.  The rule of thumb is I never lose sight of the Mark.  When areas get congested with people this is easier said than done, but when I hit heavy traffic, I usually follow eight to nine feet back, much further if there is little or no foot traffic.   If I am in a small congested traffic, I will walk on the other side of the street to maintain distance without being “Burned.”  Lastly, if you are ever in a situation where your Mark turns quickly and your face to face, the best thing you can do is continue your walk and don’t act startled.  If there is a shop nearby looking into the window or stopping and checking your watch but do not lose your bearing.  Whatever you do not lock eyes, because the mark will have a better chance of knowing whom you are if they see you again.

Join me again as I go deeper into the Art of Surveillance next post will be about Vehicle and Mobile Surveillance.