Good surveillance requires a plan. Surveillance in a rural area requires different undercover tactics than surveillance in an urban neighborhood. A well-thought out plan allows you to capture the evidence you need without raising suspicion.
With surveillance, you want the individual you are watching to act as normal as possible. This is so important regardless of whether it’s a divorce, cheating, or insurance case. If you suspect your spouse is cheating, you don’t want them to know you hired someone to watch them. You want your spouse to continue acting normally.
Same thing with an insurance investigation. You don’t want the individual you suspect faked an injury to know you are on to him and his bogus claim. A subject changes his behavior once he knows he’s being watched. That makes surveillance more difficult and more time-consuming raising the cost of the investigation significantly.
Just like police officers meet to discuss an operation before they hit the street, private investigators plan long before the surveillance begins. Technology maps the surveillance area ahead of time. Online mapping tools and the 360-degree views help pinpoint ideal places to park and watch a subject.
If possible, a site visit or pre-surveillance check is done to verify findings from online maps. This is typically done during the same time of day as the planned surveillance. A home looks different during the day than at night. A pre-surveillance check also allows the private investigator to pull into his observation spot on the first drive through the neighborhood. The more a car drives around a neighborhood, the more attention it draws.
At the end of the day, surveillance requires a good vantage point. A private investigator focuses on getting his client the best possible evidence. You don’t want any doubt as to the activity the subject is engaging in.
A private investigator needs a place to watch, but also needs to be aware of his surroundings. If the subject leaves his home or workplace, where might he go nearby? It’s important to gain a familiarity for the neighborhood, nearby highways, and landmarks.
A social media investigation reduces surveillance time by narrowing down a subject’s schedule and habits.
In a rural neighborhood, residents are alert. They notice strange cars. A private investigator needs to work hard to blend into the neighborhood. This includes possibly using decals like a magnetic sign to make the undercover vehicle appear as if it belongs in the neighborhood. In rural areas, contractors use magnetic signs to indicate their employer. This makes the private investigator avoid suspicion.
In the country, there are also fewer places to hide. While there may be large fields, it’s often private property. Private investigators are very careful and stay on public land. They follow all laws and do not trespass.
Homes are often far from the road in a rural setting. That’s where a private investigator’s tools come in handy.
A successful surveillance operation requires good technique and good tools. A telephoto lens helps in rural situations because the PI can keep his distance while still capturing the images needed for a strong case.
Clothing also matters. In a rural area, a hat or camouflage helps a PI blend into the landscape. Every little detail matters with surveillance.
In an urban setting, a private investigator is prepared for various modes of transportation. Cars, public transit, Uber, or walking may be used while tracking a subject. It’s unpredictable how a subject will get to his final destination. It’s even possible he will bike.
Blending in is much easier in the city compared to the country. Cars line city streets, so it’s not unusual for a car to park on the street for hours. However, finding a parking space with a good vantage point may prove difficult.
On the plus side, it’s easier to get out of the car and walk the street. It’s not unusual to have a camera in an urban setting. To an alert neighbor, the private investigator will likely look like a tourist.
However, traffic and crowds are a drawback in an urban setting. Surveillance requires quick thinking because it’s easy to lose the subject in a crowd. It’s also harder to follow a car in an urban setting where there is so much traffic.
Expect the unexpected
No matter where you are watching a subject, flexibility is important. A good private investigator expects the unexpected. He needs to make changes to his plan at a moment’s notice.
Also, a private investigator should have a good understanding of who they are watching. Public records searches and social media investigations give a PI clues into the subjects habits, patterns, and schedule. This information cuts down on surveillance time.
Surveillance takes time, skill, flexibility, a keen eye, and attentiveness to the law. An investigator is making decisions with little notice, and need to do so in a covert way. One wrong move by an unskilled person can break your case. That’s why you need to plan for surveillance and adapt to the rural or urban setting.