Tips For Conducting The Surveillance

By David Gibb Providence Investigations Ltd., Ontario, Canada

First of all, *everything* comes with its pros and cons...including
"Neighbourhood Watch", which to us is both a friend AND enemy.
Neighbourhoods have never been more alert to outsiders than they are
nowadays. Although large cities are typically the easiest to work
(at least based on my experiences), even some of these centres are
losing some of their "I don't give a damn" attitude, and getting more
proactive. I have learned the hard way, as we all must do, and wear
my battle scars proudly, because the more you wear the better an
investigator you have become.
With regards to informing local police of the upcoming/ongoing
investigation - I had run a thread on this very topic about a year
ago- I have implemented a policy change in recent months at our
agency. That is, we inform the police of our presence when we will
be in an area for an extended period of time, *BUT* we only advise
them as per our pretext roles (ie: traffic consultants, etc).
However, we do identify ourselves and our vehicles to the police,
although we do not advise them of our actual purpose in the area;
other than we are "doing work" (ie: lawful) in the area for x-# of
This is due to one main reason: We have been burned by our friends
in blue several times within the past year, after having notified
them of our presence.
One time, a neighbour of the subject called the police station to
inquire about "a car that had been parked down the street" for a few
hours. The police (although they had been asked to say only that we
had been checked out and were present for a lawful purpose), took it
upon themselves to inform this neighbour that we were insurance
investigators investigating one of their neighbours...not to
worry.....(he subsequently ran right next door to the subject's
house of course).
Another time, the police advised the subject (when she called to
report a strange vehicle---we were parked along her rural access
route in a disguised vehicle, about 4 km from her house) that she was
under surveillance, and even provided her with our names, plates, and
company information! I called in lawyers on that one!
(Needless to say the client wasn't very impressed when the claimant
called them to "call off the dogs"). (We were later able to nail her
using concealed video cameras as she did fundraising work for the
local arena, among other things--- a recovery that thankfully
impressed the client significantly!)
There were a couple more episodes, before we finally decided upon the
policy change. Alerting the police just didn't seem like the best
route anymore....I think largely due to there being "too many cooks
in the kitchen", rather than any deliberate malicious acts. This
way, if a neighbour (or subject) calls in, the police will simply say
"Yeah, they checked in with us, we've got their plates and stuff,
they're apparently monitoring traffic in the area or something..."
Helps to reinforce our cover as well.
A few weeks ago, we were conducting a surveillance at a local
medium-sized city, and had parked our disguised "work-van" (fully
equipped surveillance van) on a residential street (guy in back had
been driven into position, then left). A few hours later, a
neighbour reported it to the police as having been parked on the
street for a "few hours". The van was circled by police cars,
officers tried gaining entry to the vehicle through each door
(locked, investigator remained silent inside). They then called to
my house (where the plate was registered) and asked me to call them
back regarding a van of mine that may have been stolen and in their
area! They even quoted an "Incident Number"! (I've heard of
pro-active policing, but this is ridiculours!).
Anyway, like it has already been noted, I believe that most clients
understand that this kind of stuff will happen occassionally
(especially when you do 3-6 consecutive day jobs on the same
individual). How you deal with the file from that point on is how
you will be judged. Don't abandon a file simply because you've been
burned....that simply means that it's time to brainstorm!
Insofar as cover during neigbhourhood surveillances...we never enter
a neighbourhood without a solid one. Magnetic signs, business cards,
flyers (we sometimes distribute them a week ahead of time in the
subject's neighbourhood, indicating that we'll be in the area from
x-x, monitoring traffic, etc), all go a long way. Approach the
person whose house you'll be parked in front of for 2 days and speak
with them (using your cover) to explain away any anxiety they may
begin to feel (you can't blame them, after all!).
If you have a vehicle with tinted windows, you'll last a lot longer
if you sit in the rear seats. That way if you ARE spotted, it looks
like you might be waiting for someone anyway.
Now that I've written a book (I've finally got a night to myself, can
you tell?), I'll be sending another post on my rural "nightmare"
surveillance that I had appealed previously for some brainstorming
help. I'm in the middle of it now, and looks promising. If you're
not interested in reading anything more from this long-winded author
:-) be sure and delete it!