Mobile surveillance is one of the most exciting parts of being a private investigator. You might be curious how to record evidence of a person while they are in a public place. Obviously you can't take your handy cam and follow them around but you can still follow them on foot and get some great footage using covert cameras. I won't get into these in this post but I will address some ways to watch your suspect/claimant while in plain sight without being burned.
Make sure you test your covert camera before you go on surveillance for the day. Make sure the camera fits the scene you're going to. You wouldn't want to take a cell phone into a gym and expect to get good video. It will stand out whereas an iPod or watch would not.
- Dress for the place you're going to be. I wouldn't walk around downtown D.C. in redneck camouflage for example. Do a little research if you're not familiar with the town and you'll have a good idea of how to dress.
- Avoid wearing bright colors or trigger colors. Trigger colors are things like red, purple and yellow. While they can be common, they also tend to stand out more to people than colors like black, blue, white or dark green.
- Stay with the crowd if there is one. One lone man sticks out much more than a crowd of people. If you can make it work without arousing suspicion, walk close enough to someone that it looks like you're with them. If you must walk alone, break out your cell phone and look like you're texting or making a phone call. These behaviors are ones that people tend not to want to watch.
- Avoid physical contact with anyone. You don't want to accidentally bump into someone, have to say excuse me and risk your suspect/claimant hearing your voice and noticing you. So be careful of where you're walking.
- In stores, stand just behind the shelves. Most of the time there is a gap you can see through and watch your suspect and no one will notice you. If anyone else walks by, pretend you're looking at whatever is on the shelf in front of you. It's sometimes helpful to hold an item in your hand and angle it so it looks like you're reading it when you're really watching your covert camera.
- Walk at least 1 aisle away from your suspect/claimant when in the stores. They're not watching the gaps in the aisles to see if someone else is there, they're on a mission to find their products. Use that to your advantage and follow them without being in sight.
- Keep your head up (unless pretending to text or look at products) and be confident that you know where you're going - even if you don't. You'll draw more attention if you look lost. Walk straight and at a steady pace. If you're at risk of losing your suspect/claimant, then speed up your walk only when you're not in the crowd. Trying to run over the crowd and get through them will get you noticed but walking fast while alone is completely normal.
- Look in the direction of your suspect/claimant but never directly at their face. Making eye contact is one of the worst things you can do so try to look just behind them or beside them. If they look at you, shift your eyes as if they're in your way and you're trying to look around them. That will take the focus off of them suspecting you're watching them.
- Change your clothes between stops. If you follow someone to more than one store, change your clothes in between. If they saw you at the last store, they won't recognize you in a different outfit. If you're a girl, you can also put your hair up or take it down to really throw them off your trail.
- Keep your emotions at bay. If something funny happens, laugh on the inside and only smile on the outside. It's best to laugh without sound if you can. Just don't let your voice stand out. If you stump your toe, hold it in. Making any noise could get you too much attention from your suspect/claimant.