The Utah Gumshoe: 5 Tips for a Moving Surveillance
- October 24, 2014
- by Scott Fulmer
Listen: 5 Tips for a Moving Surveillance
1. Following Distance
Probably the first question every new pi has is how closely do I follow the subject? The answer is…it depends. The distance you maintain between your surveillance vehicle and the vehicle you are following is dictated by the amount of traffic on the road and your environment. For example, during rush hour on a busy street or highway you should maintain no more than one or two car lengths between you and the subject. In rural areas you can allow a greater distance between you and the subject. It’s all very relative. Basically, the more congested the traffic, the closer you need to be to the subject.
You have to be constantly scanning the horizon ahead of the subject. If they’re approaching a stop light you’ll need to increase or decrease the distance between you and the subject and be prepared to either slow down and stop or speed up and sail through the green light with them. You have to speculate as to what they will do and then do the same.
2. Find Something Unique About the Vehicle
Before the moving surveillance begins find something unique about the subject’s vehicle such as a bumper sticker, brake light pattern, rear spoiler, etc., and keep your eyes glued to it. Look for anything that makes it unique, such as a bumper sticker, window sticker or body damage. I once followed a guy in Houston rush hour traffic from NASA all the way to Spring. The only reason I was able to stay on him was because he had one of those Jack-n-the-Box clowns on his antenna. Every once in awhile you’ll follow someone that doesn’t have a rear view mirror. You can follow them all day long. Regardless of the kind of vehicle they’re driving as soon as you begin following them in traffic you’ll see nothing but that particular model of vehicle on the road.
3. Choke Points
It’s not uncommon to lose the subject at a choke point. For example he makes it through a stoplight and you don’t. That’s why you have to continually keep your eyes focused on the subject’s vehicle and the traffic ahead. This usually allows plenty of time to determine the best course of action. Major intersections, highway intersections, bridges, toll roads, etc., are all choke points. You’ll have to decrease the distance between you and the subject’s vehicle until you get through these choke points. You have to be constantly scanning the horizon ahead of the subject. For example, if they’re approaching a stop light you’ll need to increase or decrease the distance between you and the subject and be prepared to either slow down and stop or speed up and sail through the green light with them. You have to speculate as to what they will do and then do the same.”
4. It Tolls for Thee
As the English poet John Donne wrote, “…it tolls for thee.” Be aware of all toll roads, turnpikes and other private or publicly built roads in your surveillance area that require a fee for usage. Your subject may stop and pay the fee at the toll booth or she may have an EZ tag or similar toll tag that allows her to breeze through. Either way you have to be prepared with both a toll tag and plenty of coins.
5. Here Comes the Sun
Similar to fighter pilots who attack with the sun behind them, it’s best to have the sun behind you when videotaping your subject. When you get the subject to their destination it’s time to quickly park and set up your surveillance vehicle to acquire videotape as they walk in. As you do so, remember the sun is not your friend. Videotaping against the sun will wash out the video and reflect off your windows, giving you poor-quality video. Along with everything else going through your mind as you get the subject to their destination, don’t forget to set up your surveillance vehicle so that the sun is behind you as you videotape.
Until next time this is Scott Fulmer, the Utah Gumshoe reminding you the game…is afoot!
About The Utah Gumshoe Podcast
The Utah Gumshoe Podcast follows the real-life exploits, riveting case stories, investigative tips and insightful advice of Scott Fulmer, The Utah Gumshoe. Scott is a 20 year veteran Utah private investigator, surveillance expert and President/CEO of intellUTAH, a private investigation firm based in Salt Lake City.
He has written numerous articles on investigative and surveillance techniques that have appeared in PInow.com and other industry journals. He is a decorated combat veteran of the Persian Gulf War where he served with the famous 2nd Armored Division (Hell on Wheels). Whether you're a novice or an experienced investigator this is the podcast for you.