3 Things to Know About Surveillance

Updated: Jun 12

What do you know about surveillance? Perhaps it is what you have seen on TV or maybe the movies. What kind of expectations do you have and are they realistic?

Let's talk about 3 things you may not have considered when it comes to surveillance.


Surveillance is the art and science of close examination of something or someone. In our case, it is usually of people, but in some cases, we place buildings or other assets under surveillance when it is a counter-surveillance project, which we will speak about another time. For now, when we speak about "surveillance" it is when we watch people.


The first thing to know is that when conducting surveillance the operative and their client are most likely going to want to document something, whether through notes or through visual representation of what is occurring — probably the reason you are hiring the private investigator in the first place.

There are no rules as to what technical equipment a P.I. uses, but usually the more expensive/higher-end gear does the best job at photographing or capturing video. Depending on the end use of the images, usually the better the resolution the easier it is to depict the person or persons involved; clear depiction of what they are doing and the longer the distance a detective can be from them in order to prevent from being spotted, good gear allows for that.

But, have a reasonable expectation. There are a myriad of factors that a private investigator must consider when using his or her tradecraft. Things like how rapid something happens, traffic, environmental factors such as weather, obstructions and a host of other issues can make obtaining documentation, sometimes nearly impossible.


The second thing you may not have thought of, is the limitations a private investigator has, especially during a surveillance. We are often confined to a vehicle, trying to stick to someone without being "made" and need to park near them, follow them on foot and deal with a host of other issues often very rapidly.

This may sound like an excuse, but believe me when I say, most investigators live for this stuff. They enjoy their work and really want to do a bang-up job for their clients. However, there are several other limitations we are constrained by. Here are a few:

  • Budget - Private Investigators often have to work withing very tight constraints with a clients budget. Th