What comes to mind when you think of a private investigator carrying out surveillance? Chances are you would imagine something like a scene out of a classic spy movie where a detective stakes out at a suspect’s home and then pursues the subject all around town. While these can be valid forms of surveillance, private investigator surveillance often encompasses a much broader array of activities, including digital surveillance, interviewing, and technical surveillance. In this article, we will explore 3 basic techniques in which a private investigator might perform surveillance.
1) Physical Surveillance
Traditionally, a private investigator conducts surveillance by physically following a specific person around for an amount of time to observe their actions. By doing so, we are able to find out and uncover many things that may otherwise be unknown. This is the most widely known type of surveillance tactic that private investigators use. It entails viewing and following the surveillance target. The private investigator might be observing from a certain distance or using a disguise to be able to approach the subject without being detected or looking suspicious. This practice is common in spousal investigations. Physical Surveillance does not limit to a single investigator on the scene - there might be teams involved, with both stationary and mobile assets.
2) Technical Surveillance
Also known as A/V surveillance; it is commonly used in every type of surveillance investigation, with the purpose of gathering evidence that can be played back and reviewed later. This involves all active and passive surveillance activities that involve tools, the infiltration of recording devices such as movement sensors, cameras, microphones, voice and video recorders.
3) Digital Surveillance
Similar to the objectives of the aforementioned types, digital surveillance consists following a subject’s behavior online. This form of surveillance involves the monitoring of information or data that is stored or exchanged across computers and online. It can be done in a non-intrusive way, by inadvertently checking or following the target in social media and doing online searches, or taking a more intrusive approach such as going through the web history of the subject, logging in the subject’s social media if possible to search for evidence, and checking their digital trash.
It is important to bear in mind that Private Investigators are professional data gatherers, and thus the communication with their clients is key; it’s best to be as descriptive as possible in the first interviews and try not to leave everything to the investigator’s guesswork, since knowing when and what to look for can make or break the results of an investigation.
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