Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Handy Surveillance Rule-of-Thumb

So, every now and again one topic again arises, Dear Reader, in regards to carrying out surveillance.

Usually, the scenario goes something like this: Douchebag Client wants X hours surveillance on the Subject. The Subject's home address is known, little else is. Douchebag Client instructs you to obtain video/photographic evidence of said Subject's escapades and expects you to put in 12+ hour days surveilling him/her.


So here is my handy rule-of-thumb in regards to the above scenario:


Yeah, I know.

What Douchebag Client is really asking you to do is drop your professional standards and, instead, provide a half-arsed service at (probably) cut-price rate.

Surveillance is a team activity and requires a team to do properly.

Now I do not mean to sully the integrity of all those other investigators that regularly, if not routinely, carry out surveillance operations on their lonesome. Everyone needs to eat.

Nor am I suggesting they are going out there with the intention of showing any less than 100% commitment to getting the job done.

What I am saying is that they are going out with a shift in odds favouring the Subject in circumstances that are probably already against them enough as it is.

Okay, there are some circumstances that can justify being one-up (ie alone) when conducting an obs. Usually, this might be when conducting static surveillance on a particular location. Since you will not be actively following the Subject if they leave the area, operating by yourself is less of an issue.

Recently I had a couple of days keeping tabs on a particular compound and recording the details of all vehicles leaving and entering (for reasons still not clear to me). There was certainly no need to be two-up in this particular instance.

However, when tasked with surveilling a mobile Subject as they make their way around a city, from one location to another, being a single operator (in a single vehicle) is really an exercise in futility. Not only do you have to contend with driving in traffic, operating surveillance equipment, keeping a log, and keeping eyes on the Subject - you also have a greater risk of being burned by the Subject, particularly if they are surveillance 'aware'.

One of my pet gripes is that one-up surveillance is expected as the industry standard and I think that this is probably our fault because we say yes to Douchebag Clients when we should be saying no instead.

Would you expect an airliner flying long-haul, or international, to be crewed by a single pilot? Or if undergoing surgery, would you ask that the performing surgeon also take care of the anesthetics and other theatre tasks to cut down on your medical bill? 


So why do clients insist upon telling us how to best do our jobs?

Keep your professional dignity.

Just say no.

* Taken without permission from 'Surveillance Countermeasures' by ACM IV Security Services.

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