Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Once upon a stakeout

Actually, Dear Reader, this post probably should have had the title from the last.

Funny how things turn out.

It all started out simply enough, as it does, with a relatively straighforward surveillance assignment on Sam's (not his real name) wife. Sara (not her real name either) was staying in town overnight after a work function, but Sam had found some evidence pointing towards Sara's plans for a risque rendezvous at a nearby motel with person (or persons) unknown.

We didn't have much time to prepare but did some preliminary CTRs (Close Target Recces) and identified where her vehicle was parked up along with several good locations to position ourselves and await the follow phase.

The only problem is that we didn't really know what time the work event was scheduled to finish, or if she was in fact even attending. So we were in position a good 30 minutes prior to work finishing, just in case she was slipping out straight afterwards.

The work function was one of those exercises where staff from other branches take turns to host some activity, in turn. There are prizes, some alcohol and food is provided, and it's really a way for staff to socialise with each other. Probably an 'invaluable team building exercise' according to an overpaid HR consultant.

This particular office had three entry/exit points. I was covering two (they were on same side of building) while Pedro was covering the other. For the next five and a half hours, as the temperature started to drop alarmingly, we kept watch.

There really wasn't much to see, for the most part. However, one thing that did draw our attention was the dodgy-looking urban youth dawdling in the vicinity on his BMX bike. He went up to one of the side doors and briefly conversed with someone (I couldn't see exactly what occurred because of some shrubbery obscuring the door) but it certainly had all the hallmarks of a drug transaction.


Finally people started to leave. Thinking that we would be moving at any moment certainly got the adrenaline pumping which, as it turned out, was a bit premature. It was almost another two hours before our subject made a move. By this time Pedro was (half) joking about calling in a bomb threat just to clear the building...

But there she was, exiting the building with a group of four others. She headed over to her van and, rather unexpectedly, just locked up some items and instead got into a car with the others.

Hmmm. This was indeed an unexpected turn of events as we were working on premise that having organised a motel for sexy fun times, you'd think she would be keen to get down to business. I know I certainly would...

Of course, perhaps she'd been planning an orgy?

Pedro and I commenced the mobile follow which, early on, clearly indicated an intention to go to a location other than any of the possible motels. And it was just so, we had followed the group to a relatively new bar in the area. Another hour before the slightly diminished group set off on foot down the road.

Surveillance of a target on foot while you are in a vehicle tends to be a bit tricky, but we worked it using a bounding overwatch approach. Following on foot really wasn't too much of an option in case Sara decided to get a cab as we might have ended up being stranded. It was a Friday night and there were a number of revelers in the streets, so competition for cabs could be a bit fierce.

Anyway, I was in position at Embargo (not its real name), another popular club further down the road, when Pedro announced they were heading right to my position.

Turns out that Sara and her small entourage must have arranged to meet a few other coworkers at Embargo. There were quite a clique of them in the corner, boozing it up and having a laugh. Sara was arm in arm with some older guy in a Salmon-coloured shirt. Very friendly.

Now the problem was that neither Pedro nor I were really dressed for swanky nightclub detail. Yes, and there was a lesson to be learned here, but Sara had not acted in a manner consistent with our expectations.

Nonetheless we managed. I was only asked once by some drunk woman, "What boat did you come off?" Maybe I do look like a Russian Seaman after all!

Anyway, after another hour and a bit of this, Sara quietly slipped out with Salmon-shirt Man.

Pedro and I immediately sprung back into action. She was heading back towards her workplace, and her parked van, so we decided that I would move on ahead and position myself to have command of the carpark and road leading to it, Pedro would bring up the rear and not allow the two, who were playing grab-arse, out of his sight.

Good plan!

So there I was, back in position with clear line of sight to Sara's parked van and an estimated 10-15 minutes before Sara and Salmon-shirt Man should arrive when a curious incident took place.

The lights of one of the other two vehicles left in the carpark suddenly came on along with the flashing indicators! I had been parked up maybe 5 minutes at this stage and had seen no-one arrive but the area was mostly unlit. The lights stayed on for a couple of minutes, then the indicators were turned off and the car moved a bit but just stayed there a few more minutes before, once again, moving. This time it left the carpark and was headed towards my position but turned down a side street that even I knew was a dead-end.


Then it did a U-turn and started heading the other way although, this time, I got a good look at the rear of the vehicle (a silver 2-door coupe) and the trunk was open.


Could it be that I had just witnessed the theft of a vehicle? I think so...

But just as I thought to call it in to the police, Sara and Salmon-shirt Man entered into my field of view. Given that this was the job I was being paid to do, my priorities were with the surveillance and not the stolen vehicle, so I did not call the police.

Instead, I watched Salmon-shirt Man (who was a good 15-20 years older than Sara) lift up her figure-hugging dress above her waist and the two of them ran to the parked van. Right, so I was prepared to initiate another follow but Sara, rather than get into the driver's side, opened the back of the van and the both of them got in.


I reported this to Pedro who then phoned Sam for further instruction. Can we take photographs of what is happening inside the van he asked? Well, apart possibly from breaking the laws regarding intimate visual recordings, the windows were tinted and walking up to the van and snapping away like paparazzi is not really what we do.

Instead, Pedro drove into the carpark, did a circuit and left. He reported back that he didn't know exactly what she was up to, but she certainly was naked and had a fine arse!

Job successfully concluded.

Hopefully I'll have the same degree of success tomorrow as I have a 2-day surveillance job on. However, I already know there are going to be some difficulties ahead.

PS: I did call the police some 20 minutes later and gave them the details of what transpired regarding the suspect vehicle. 


  1. Are you still not allowed to take photos of people with written consent?

    1. No, that law has thankfully been replaced with a new one (and Code of Conduct which still retains some restrictions, but none that are unreasonable).

      The problem is that there still are some OTHER laws which might prohibit certain activities that, in other circumstances, would be lawful.

      In this particular case, the act of intimate covert filming.

      It might be argued in Court that the couple could have no reasonable expectation of privacy while going at it in a van parked in a carpark, BUT, given that it was around 1am, the carpark is unlit and in an industrial area, and the van's windows are darkly tinted, the result might very well be that such an expectation is very reasonable indeed.

      Rather not risk it.

    2. I would of taken the photos to be quite honest. Like you said, it can be argued that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public area, regardless of how poorly lit the area was.

      Also, I would doubt that the targets would take any actions due to the humiliation factor of having the photos/video entered into the record. Unless they like that kind of thing.

    3. Yes, if we could have gotten the pics covertly, I might have been a bit that way inclined BUT this would have necessitated approaching the van and literally using the flash at close range.

      Perhaps we might even be seen by the occupants approaching the vehicle and then Salmon-shirt Man might have gotten back into his pants and decided to have a go... Things might very well have escalated beyond our control.

      It really wasn't necessary.

      Besides, it turned out that Pedro had the camera, not me.