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The Utah Gumshoe: Taking Notes Moving Surveillance

The Utah Gumshoe: Taking Notes Moving Surveillance

Listen: Taking Notes Moving Surveillance

Taking notes during a moving surveillance can present challenges. It is critical that your notes are accurate. Keep in mind that what you say may be read back to you in court. Therefore, it’s important that your notes are both professional and objective. When I first started in this business I took hand-written notes on a legal pad during a moving surveillance. I’d follow my subject from one location to the next and, if I had the time between locations, scribble down some notes before he left again. I often ended up relying on my memory which was not really a solid approach. I eventually moved up to dictating my notes into a handheld mini-cassette recorder. I had to lug a container full of mini-cassettes and batteries with me but it was a huge evolutionary step over the legal pad. But it came with it’s own set of problems. The mini-cassettes had limited space and could only be used a few times. Which brings me to tip number one:

Tip #1: Use a Small Handheld Digital Recorder

I currently use an Olympus WS-802 to dictate my notes during surveillance. I’ve used both Sony and Olympus brands and both have been reliable. By the way, I also use a set of rechargeable AAA batteries so after the initial purchase there is no reoccurring cost. My hand held digital recorder has a 27 hour battery life, 4GB of memory, over 1,000 hours of recording time and weighs only 2 ounces. I record my surveillance notes live from beginning to end, during my surveillance. Then I just email them to my administrative assistant who types up the report. For versatility, be sure to purchase a digital recorder that has both a removable micro-SD card and a USB connection. This method saves trees (no more legal pads) and saves time. You won’t have to spend another thirty minutes after your surveillance dictating your notes.

TIP #2: Time, Location, and Objective Description

I already mentioned the importance of accuracy as you dictate your notes during a moving surveillance. This includes an accurate time and description of the activity as well as the exact location or at least an approximate location. Whether you use a wrist watch or a clock in your car or on your cell phone, make sure it’s accurate.

Location can present problems if you’re unfamiliar with the area or not able to get an exact address due to the brevity of the subject activity. I utilize a Garmin GPS which allows me to at least glance up and see what intersection I am at. If I can’t state categorically that the subject was followed to the “…Walgreen’s Drug Store at 232 State St.”, I can at least say the subject was followed to the “…Walgreen’s Drug Store at the intersection of Adams Street and Colfax Avenue.”

This is Scott Fulmer, the Utah Gumshoe, reminding you the game…if afoot!

About The Utah Gumshoe Podcast

Scott B. Fulmer The Utah Gumshoe

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 Utah Gumshoe, a private investigation firm based in Salt Lake City.

He has written numerous articles on investigative and surveillance techniques that have appeared in 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.

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