What Is Surveillance?
A surveillance investigator collects information on a suspect, or subject, from the hidden corners of the office or the dark side of a building. Surveillance investigators can work independently as a private contractor or business employee and frequently use hidden cameras, wiretaps, and other surveillance instruments to complete sophisticated investigations. Surveillance has become increasingly important in today’s complex world of computer crime, human error, money laundering, and terrorism. Surveillance creates opportunities to detect hidden surveillance, much more so than traditional law enforcement methods, such as the issuance of warrants or the surveillance of people and homes.
The practice of hiring private investigators has become a much preferred alternative to traditional law enforcement techniques. Private investigators are often highly trained ex-government or military intelligence and surveillance personnel. They possess specialized knowledge, investigative skill, surveillance equipment, and legal and ethical obligations that protect them from civil and criminal liability. These individuals serve as a vital link between individuals and companies who want to conduct sensitive investigations and those with information that must remain private.
These investigators specialize in a host of specialties ranging from corporate security to high value banking to missing children and domestic violence investigations. Their investigation skills extend to Internet investigations, credit card frauds and Enron frauds, to name only a few. Private surveillance investigators can also assist with asset forfeitures, cease and desist orders, and asset protection investigations. They have developed a niche market for investigating a wide range of different subjects, both foreign and domestic, which include child pornography, public corruption, insurance industry frauds, and stolen government assets.
Each day in the United States, thousands of new jobs are created. Yet, few of these positions are held open specifically for private investigators. Most job announcements advertise general background checks or employment screening as qualifications for employment. Such an advertised position does not always provide the necessary training or education to qualify one to become a surveillance investigator. This is why it is especially important for those interested in pursuing this career to acquire the appropriate education and training before taking the next step and getting a job as an investigator.
In order to begin the investigation process, surveillance investigators must complete formal education and training to learn about investigations and their tools. In fact, a surveillance investigator is considered to be a certified investigator by most states. Surveillance investigators get their training and certifications by attending specialized investigative training seminars and classes. These seminars and classes are often held locally and can last up to several days. The training can be as simple as learning about warrant searches and administrative procedures, or as extensive as studying criminal law, interviewing witnesses, and preparing complex investigations. Some state licensing boards require further training and certification in specific areas of surveillance investigations before the investigator can apply for licensing.
Surveillance investigators can conduct surveillance on a person’s home or place of business. Depending on the type of surveillance being conducted, the investigator will need to have a court authorization to do so. Most modern surveillance systems are completely wireless and require no physical connection to the people being investigated. Modern surveillance investigators use GPS trackers and hidden video cameras to find out what’s going on. The video and GPS trackers allow the investigator to follow the subject 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There are two main types of surveillance investigations in which surveillance investigators may serve. First, there is Probable Cause surveillance. In this type of investigation, surveillance investigators follow a subject and do a search that they believe may lead to evidence of a criminal activity. Second, surveillance may involve interviewing a subject and obtaining personal information about them without first knowing if they have done something wrong. Although many states require probable cause for surveillance, the exact guidelines vary from state to state.
Surveillance investigators also often use video equipment such as hidden cameras and spy cameras to obtain evidence for a criminal investigation. In order to protect yourself from surveillance, you should keep certain general thoughts in mind. If you’re being investigated for a specific crime or suspect, you should never give any kind of information to anyone without first having your lawyer check it out. If you’re being investigated for something you know nothing about, it’s always better to be caught with your pants down than to say anything you don’t want to.