Over the course of my career (17+ years), I have heard my fair share of complaints from potential clients indicating that their current surveillance/investigative partner was not achieving the desired results with the budgets provided. The activities and behaviors of people are constantly changing and that forces us as investigators to change our approach and evaluate our practices in order to achieve optimal results.
In order to improve the results of your surveillance investigations I strongly recommend that you implement these 7 practices.
- Profile the subject before taking to the streets. Verify the home address provided and develop a working phone number for the subject. Many times, the address provided by the client is from a personnel file for your subject that could be pretty old. Sitting on a bad address is not a good way to start your surveillance and it eats up the budget.
2. Conduct searches of relevant Social Media platforms to develop habits and activities for your subject. If your client is willing to pay for a pre-surveillance workup that includes social media then great, but if not, do it on your own time and offer it as a freebie to the client.
3. Obtain a current photograph of your subject. Always request one from the client at intake. If one is not available, then try to track one down on Social Media. Also, run a driving record via DMV to get a description of your subject.
4. Conduct searches of DMV to develop information on vehicles owned by the subject so that you have plates to be on the lookout for. If there are no hits, then be prepared to run plates once you get on the target in real time to see if you can identify the vehicle your subject is likely to drive.
5. If your subject is found to be inactive after a reasonable amount of time on surveillance a discreet canvass needs to be conducted. Contact with neighbors can reveal vital information like confirmation that the subject lives at the address, activity level, work history and times when he or she comes and goes. If the neighbors cannot be contacted and the subject is not represented, then discreet contact at the subject’s residence is also recommended. Utilize a solid cover story and try to uncover as much information as you can. The goal is to always give actionable information back to the client as opposed to saying, “Two days of surveillance conducted, no activity, no video.
6. Medical Tail Away or Deposition Tail Away – I have found that these should be used as a last resort when the subject’s current residential address cannot be located. Appointments change, subjects often are no shows and the setup at large medical buildings can be very difficult with one investigator. It is important to be aware of the subject’s treatment schedule during the surveillance period so that you can be prepared for where they might go and understand the setup at the medical facility prior. Also, if you end up conducting a medical tail away you always want to make a discreet call to the treating facility the day before to confirm the appointment time, type of examination and location. By doing this you can avoid going to the wrong facility or conducting surveillance on a day when the appointment has been cancelled or re-scheduled.
7. Surveillance Plan – Based on the activities and habits of your subject and based on what you are looking to uncover (employment, outside activities, household chores, infidelity, etc.) put together and schedule your surveillance to optimize the chances of getting video recorded evidence of these activities.
- Weekday Recommended Setup Time: 6M
- Weekend Recommended Setup Time: 7AM
NOTE: If the subject is in construction you want to set up much earlier to avoid missing the subject’s departure. If the subject is known to work nights, then adjust your setup time to late afternoon/early evening.
*Bonus Tip: Always ask the client to provide reports for any and all prior surveillance. You should also ask if any prior surveillance investigators have been burned during previous surveillance efforts.
7 Tips to Improve Surveillance Results
By: Tim Santoni, Pres/CEO of Santoni Investigations
Tim Santoni is an Investigative Consultant to businesses and has been a legal counsel for over 17 years. He is also a Licensed private investigator in the State of California is passionate about Risk Mitigation. He enjoys educating business owners on what they can do to mitigate risk in their businesses and how to protect themselves from those in their inner circle. Tim provides advice on how to be prepared for, investigate and deal more effectively with litigation and workers comp claims if and when they arise.