When I tell people I am a private investigator, surveillance tends to be the thing the first thing that springs to their mind and quickly becomes the forefront of conversation. Which makes total sense, it’s the actual ‘spying’ part of my job after all. So, this blog will explore a little of the basics of surveillance, so you can understand how much ‘spy stuff’ is actually involved!
First and foremost is not to be seen by your mark (fancy PI word for ‘person you are following’ not always necessarily called Mark). The aim of surveillance is to observe and often to try to catch a person ‘in the act’, for example cheating on their spouse or taking cash bribes. If someone is even suspicious that they are being watched they will change their behaviour massively. If you have been observed at work you will understand this awkward feeling and how difficult it is to act natural in front of an audience – now imagine you are trying to hide something at the same time!
I do not own a cupboard full of elaborate disguises or stage make up for this. While every mark is different and may take you to some unusual places, average day to day clothes that will blend into a crowd usually work across all situations. As fun as it would be to don a fake moustache or a false nose, a good PI should be so indistinguishable that you don’t warrant a second look.
This goes for your vehicle as well. If you are watching someone from your car or following theirs, a fancy sports car tailgating them is likely to get noticed. You want something average looking and to keep some distance between you. According to www.statisa.com the Ford Fiesta is ‘the most popular model in the UK with over 94,500 new cars sold in 2017. Volkswagen Golf was the second most popular model with close to 75,000 units sold.’ Choosing a common model like these in a plain colour is your best bet to go unnoticed.
Beside aesthetics, ensuring your car is reliable is also a must. Nothing says ‘look at me’ like flashing AA lights as you hold up traffic! I have spent hours in my car tailing my marks, so it is more than worth my time to get it checked regularly to ensure that I am not caught short while doing my job.
If I am following my mark on foot, the tactics are obviously a bit different. Little tip: observe them from the opposite side of the road. If you are directly behind them and they go around a corner or disappear in a house or shop, then you can’t see them. But if you are on the opposite side then it’s easier to keep track of their movements. Also shop or cafe windows are brilliant for watching people. Again, try not to draw attention to yourself, as nosey staff can sometimes make your life difficult! For example, if you are in a coffee shop pretend to be waiting for someone to avoid staff asking you to move along. Equally, don’t order anything or get into conversation that forces you to stick around in case your mark makes a sudden move.
Finally, making sure you have all the equipment you need is an essential part of preparation. I use trackers, cameras and recording equipment to ensure that I can capture all the evidence I need to prove someone’s guilt or lack thereof. Again, taking care of this equipment and ensuring it is ‘ready to go’ is a must – turning up to a job with five per cent battery is simply a rooky error.
Keeping a low profile is integral to my success at work. I hope this article has given a little insight into how I achieve this and why my friends never challenge me to a game of hide and seek!
To find out more contact Alison at Miss A M Investigations.