Wednesday, June 12, 2013

10 Tips for Parking While On Surveillance

I spend a good amount of time listening to and reading the work of other investigators. I think it's a great way to make me better at my job. I'm learning from others. I also have some common sense and standards on how I prefer to conduct my work. Being a woman in this field poses some challenges that a man may or may not face. I can't comment on that because A.) I'm not a man and B.) I don't know what it's like for a man out here. Regardless, here are some of the best tips for deciding where to park while on surveillance, some learned from other investigators and some coming from my own personal point of view.

  1. Don't park in front of your claimants home. This sounds easy enough but in some places there doesn't seem to be any other option. If the only parking space on the road is right in front of his/her home, then park on another road.
  2. Park at least 5 houses away from your claimant if at all possible (Ref. 1). If that's not possible, consider parking in a business lot near their home where other cars will be parked as well. Quite often you can get a view of their home from here and if not, you can at least see their vehicles when they leave the neighborhood. I typically try to park at least a block away and I thoroughly love houses on the corner where I can park 2 or 3 blocks away and go completely undetected by my claimant.
  3. Park in between two houses along the road. Not literally in between them as if you drive up in their yard but, look for a parking spot that isn't in front of either house, but situated so that you're not directly in view of either house when they open their front door. This can be tricky but look for a spot like this anyway, even if it means you're only 3 or more than 7 houses away from your claimant.
  4. Never park your car in such a way that you can't make a quick exit. By this I mean back into parking spaces or park near the exit. This works for many reasons, the most important being your safety. If someone tries to block you in, you will be able to take the exit and flee. You can also get out easier if your claimant goes mobile. 
  5. Try to park in a public parking lot with more than one exit. This makes it increasingly more difficult for anyone to block you in. I've backed into spots and still had people angle their car in front of me in such a way I could not leave. This is not a comfortable situation, trust me.
  6. Park in full view of a camera when in public parking lots that have them. Look for the camera, they're very common these days. This will protect you should any court action come of your watching a claimant/suspect. The camera could capture any incident, verify your whereabouts and activities, etc.
  7. Be mindful of how you park. If every other car in the parking lot faces north, then face your car north as well. Don't double park, don't go over the lines and don't get too close to the cars beside you. All of these little things will make you stand out or draw unwanted attention.
  8. Don't park near or under street lights. This is essential early in the mornings or after dusk. You do not want that light reflecting off of your car and giving away your position. 
  9. Don't park in the same spot twice. If you're on an investigation on two or more consecutive days then make sure to find a new parking spot each day. This way if someone notices you one day you won't be there the next. People are always more suspicious if you come back. 
  10. Obey parking laws. You have to be extra careful of where you park when the sun is not up. It's much more difficult to see a yellow, blue or red painted curb when there's no light in an area. Be mindful of where you can and cannot park. In some localities, it's illegal to park within 30 feet of a stop sign. To make sure I follow all the local laws, I observe the way other cars are parked in the neighborhood and follow suit. This avoids any unwanted (and non-reimbursable) tickets and potentially getting burned when the meter maid writes them.
Share your tips with me via comment below!

1. Private Investigator Advice Headquarters


  1. Good general tips. I'd add:

    11. Sit in the passenger seat or rear of vehicle rather than remaining at the wheel.

    12. Keep your equipment and files etc out of sight in the vehicle when not in use.

    13. Lock your doors while in your vehicle.

    14. If you are getting too much Third-Party attention call it quits and return another day (perhaps in another vehicle if possible)

    15. Clean your windows and mirrors before setting out on surveillance.

    16. Check all your batteries are fully charged on your cameras and other electronic gear before leaving.

    17. Fill up your fuel tank on way to subject's location.

    1. Thanks for sharing! I do a lot of out of town driving so I fill up right before I get to the subjects home.

      The extra tips are great. I usually sit in the backseat, locked in unless I'm in an area I don't feel particularly safe. Then I sit up front.

      I also use curtains in addition to my tinted windows sometimes as well. I've had children come stand right next to my car and this prevents anyone from getting close enough to see in. The curtains provide plenty of extra coverage and people don't usually tend to suspect anything. I almost always drape a curtain across the car to further hide the backseat as well.