Today in this post I will try to shed some light on Observation which is the most critical job of Artists as well as Private Investigators like us! Observation is a critical aspect of surveillance detection. It also supports antisurveillance, particularly in identifying the need to elude surveillance by detecting it. The Principal’s perceptive ability to observe and retain specifics regarding the surrounding environment enables him to identify indications of surveillance and subsequently confirm them through repeated observations of surveillance operators or vehicles. A sophisticated surveillance team rarely commits tactical errors that allow the Principal to identify its presence during an isolated incident.
Although there are specific surveillance detection maneuvers that are designed to expose surveillance immediately, most depend on the Principal’s ability to observe his surroundings and confirm any suspicions such observation might elicit at subsequent times and locations. When I use the word ‘Principa;’ I imply a person who is being followed. As such this article can also help you become more aware of your surroundings and also help you spot people who you think may be following you.
Observation is the act of seeing or fixing the mind upon something for the purpose of recognizing and retaining some fact or occurrence. It is conducted through the body’s senses of perception. Perception is an individual’s awareness of the elements of environment, gained through physical sensation in reaction to sensory stimulus. Sensory stimulus is perceived by the body’s senses, which consist of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. For surveillance detection purposes, observation relies primarily on the sense of sight, but it can be enhanced by hearing and, to a much lesser degree, smell. Effective observation requires a conscious and continuous effort. This consists of a keen awareness of surrounding activity to observe and retain the images of specific individuals, objects, and occurrences. This includes the perception of shape, size, and features; colors, shades, and lighting; and speed, time, and distance. The process of observation consists of three sub-processes: attention, perception, and retention.
Attention is the aspect of observation that is most critical to surveillance detection, because without attention, perception and retention are impossible. Attention is the awareness of surroundings that provide the sensory stimulus on which perception is based. People will normally apply voluntary attention to the activity they are undertaking. An item or occurrence that does not fit within an individual’s frame of reference for what is the statusquo normally draws involuntary attention. For example, someone may walk through a crowd of faceless people until a person with a limp immediately draws his involuntary attention. People who are particularly large or small have this same effect, as do bright colors and loud or sharp sounds.
As mentioned, an individual’s attention is normally focused on the activity he is undertaking at the time. His attention is limited to items and occurrences that have direct impact on that activity, unless it is seized by an unusually large, loud, or relatively unanticipated item or occurrence. An individual driving down the road will normally focus his attention on those factors which impact that activity-primarily the traffic and road ahead. The Principal practicing surveillance detection, on the other hand, must expand his attention to include the entire surroundings.The skill of observation requires a knowledge of the principles of perception and an understanding of how they are employed. The most basic detractor one must overcome in attempting to enhance perceptive skills is the tendency to perceive and retain only those items or occurrences that fall within his range of interests or understanding. Everyone has a unique range of interests and understanding based on mental capacity, education, and background.Personal interests are conditioned throughout a lifetime, and to expand observation beyond those requires a conscious and focused effort. Perception is also limited by an individual’s base of knowledge.
The mind tends to either subconsciously filter out items and occurrences for which there is no frame of reference by which to describe them in known terms or retain them for subsequent retrieval. An individual must be constantly aware of these tendencies in order to overcome their impact on observation. Every individual perceives his surroundings uniquely. In the context of observation for the purposes of surveillance detection, the Principal’s frame of reference for how people and vehicles are observed must be expanded through concentration and training. The unassuming individual may view all individuals equally-or ignore them equally. A person who holds ethnic prejudices will immediately avert his attention to those who do not conform to his standard of “normal,” whereas those who do conform will pass unnoticed. A person who has been the victim of a violent crime at the hands of an someone of a particular race or category of persons will display vigilance in directing his attention to those who meet this profile in comparison to others individuals around him.
Another common example of how attention is programmed is that attractive individuals of the opposite sex will normally seize people’s attention. This brief psychological synopsis illustrates the impact an individual’s frame of reference has on his attention. As mentioned previously, perception and retention are only possible after attention is applied. Most people’s perception of what a surveillance operator looks like comes from Hollywood interpretations and spy novels. This frame of reference will only serve to filter out the actual surveillance operators because, contrary to popular perceptions, they will be among the most unassuming individuals on the streets. This perception must be overcome for surveillance detection purposes because otherwise the Principal’s attention will be focused on misconceived indicators.
OBSERVATION AND SURVEILLANCE DETECTION
A basic understanding of the principles of observation is a critical aspect of surveillance detection. Much of surveillance detection depends on observing possible or suspected surveillance operators or vehicles, retaining their images or key aspects thereof, and confirming that they are surveillance operators or vehicles through subsequent observation. Once again, perception and retention are contingent on attention. The Principal’s voluntary attention must transcend the frame of reference that has developed over his lifetime and he must apply attention to all surrounding activity to the greatest degree possible. Then, through a keen knowledge of surveillance tactics and an ability to detect indicators of surveillance, he can eliminate those individuals and vehicles that are not indicative or suspicious and key on those that are.
Any sophisticated surveillance effort operates based on a keen understanding of the principles of observation. A surveillance effort will conform to what most people see as the statusquo or the norm with respect to the surrounding environment. This minimizes or negates the degree to which it draws the involuntary attention of the Principal. Although the Principal cannot discount unique individuals and vehicles immediately, it is safe to say that they will rarely be representative of a sophisticated surveillance effort because of the attention they attract.For the purposes of surveillance detection, the primary objective of observation of surrounding individuals is to retain their characteristics-consisting of features, form, dress, and mannerisms-for later recognition. It is not feasible to retain all of these for each individual observed. The Principal must attempt to key on those characteristics that are the most dominant and difficult to alter.
By so doing, he can concentrate on retaining specific characteristics of a number of surrounding individuals in a short period of time. By keying in on characteristics that are difficult to alter, the Principal does not squander mental resources retaining those that are easily altered and possibly of no subsequent value.
Observation of Features
Body features consist primarily of face, head, and hair. Three things that directly impact these are gender, race, and age, though these are not considered features in and of themselves because none can stand alone as an identifying characteristic for surveillance detection purposes.Body features are the most accurate characteristics by which to identify individuals. With the exception of hair, these are generally the most difficult and time-consuming to alter. Body features, however, are the most difficult to observe because they require that the Principal be close to the individual under scrutiny. The tactically sound surveillance operator will rarely place himself in a position that allows this degree of observation.
Additionally there are some long-term tactical disadvantages to the Principal’s being in close proximity to a surveillance operator. Facial features consist primarily of the eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, lips, chin, and ears. They can also include wrinkles, scars, dimples, birthmarks, moles, complexion, or other such markings as applicable. With many individuals, these variables can be the most distinguishable for observation purposes. Generally, however, the primary features will be the ones used for retention. The most effective method of observing an individual’s facial features for retention is to first develop an overall image of the face and then key on the most distinguishable feature or features. The head is normally distinguished by its shape. Although this could also qualify as a characteristic of form, it is included in the category of body features because of its impact on facial features and the overall development of a facial image. Additionally, the shape of the head includes the shape of the face. The shape of the head is generally differentiated as being round, high in the crown, bulging at the back, flat at the back, or keel (egg)-shaped. The shape of the face is distinguished by its height and breadth.
Although oval is the most prominent facial shape, faces can also be round, square, broad, fat, thin, or long. Body fat, or the lack thereof, may have a significant impact on the shape of a face.Hair is a significant aspect of an individual’s appearance. It can be a very deceiving feature, however, when one is operating against a sophisticated surveillance effort. As will be discussed in a subsequent section, hair is the surveillance operator’s quickest and most effective method of altering his appearance without resorting to elaborate disguise techniques. Hair is generally distinguished by color, length, texture, body, and style. The lack of head hair is a particularly prevalent feature. Facial hair, which is primarily distinguished by color, texture, and style, is yet another prevalent feature. Additionally, body hair such as arm and leg hair can assist detection observation.
The observation of surrounding vehicles for surveillance detection purposes also depends on the perception of features. Whereas each individual’s appearance is unique in many ways, there is much more duplication among vehicles with regard to makes, models, and colors. For this reason, the ability to observe features that may distinguish one vehicle from like models is critical to surveillance detection. Unique features such as dents, scratches, tires, hubcaps, designs, and distinguishable license plates are examples of those the Principal must concentrate on in order to isolate a possible surveillance vehicle from others on the road. At night, features such as a unique headlight appearance are useful for surveillance detection.
Observation of Form
Form consists of shape, build, and size. The overall body shape is formed by the neck, shoulders, trunk, stomach, buttocks, hips, legs, feet, arms, and hands. Distinguishable aspects of any portion of the body can be isolated for observation purposes.
Body shape is directly affected by body fat and muscularity. The fit of clothing must be considered, as it may distort perception in the observation of body shape. Build is generally categorized as heavy, stocky, medium, slender, and thin. This too is directly affected by body fat and muscularity and an also be distorted by clothing. Size is a relative characteristic based on individual perceptions. It is generally described in terms of height, width, and breadth. In assessing an individual’s size, one must factor in the distortion to perception caused by distance. Height is categorized as short, medium, and tall, but it should be estimated specifically by feet and inches. In assessing an individual’s height, the observer must factor in the distortion to perception that may occur when he and the individual under observation are situated at different levels.
Additionally, height can be altered by thick soles or heels on the shoes. Body width and breadth are particularly subjective and relative to the perception of the individual making the observation. For example, some individuals may be heavy or stocky in build but relatively small in overall size, whereas others are simply big without necessarily being fat or muscular. Again, width and breadth can be distorted by clothing. Finally, posture can have a significant effect on overall form, but this is normally considered a characteristic of mannerisms. Form is also applicable to the detection of surveillance vehicles. From a distance, a vehicle’s form is more readily distinguishable than its features. At night, the form projected by the silhouettes of following vehicles is one of the few things which can be discerned for surveillance detection purposes.
This same silhouette characteristic also applies to forms inside a vehicle, such as those of the occupants.
Observation of Mannerisms
Mannerisms are those characteristics or idiosyncrasies that are unique to an individual. They are peculiarities in action or bearing, including posture, stride, pace of motion, and voice quality. The number of examples is unlimited. Mannerisms that stand out or appear awkward can be effectively exploited for surveillance detection. An individual’s demeanor and bearing are established through myriad mannerisms. These are actions which are either programmed over a lifetime or result from physical characteristics. Those that develop through the years become subconscious actions and therefore can only be controlled by a conscious effort. Mannerisms that result from physical characteristics are much more difficult to alter because the mind cannot control and conceal what the body is unable to. For these reasons, the observation of unique mannerisms in surrounding individuals is an important aspect of surveillance detection. Whereas a surveillance operator can effectively alter appearance through disguise, most mannerisms require a continuous conscious effort to conceal or alter, and many are physically impossible to conceal.Physical mannerisms such as stride and posture are the easiest to observe. Unique physical mannerisms such as limps and nervous twitches are particularly conducive to surveillance detection.
In addition to representing themselves through physical mannerisms, people do so through their outward manner or demeanor. Demeanor generally consists of attitude, disposition, and temperament. These factors significantly influence how people carry themselves. For example, extroverted individuals normally display a more outgoing, positive, or aggressive demeanor. Regardless of his degree of extroversion or introversion, every individual exudes unique characteristics of demeanor that require a conscious effort to alter or conceal. Some of the most difficult mannerisms to control are those associated with nervousness and anticipation. Although surveillance operators will attempt to maintain an inconspicuous demeanor at all times, there is a natural tendency to become driven by the increase in adrenaline brought about by a surveillance operation. This can result in conspicuous actions or mannerisms such as pacing, focused staring, and continuously checking the watch. Other mannerisms that are unique to surveillance operators and may be exploited in surveillance detection observation are those associated with wearing body communications equipment. Many sophisticated surveillance teams equip surveillance operators with concealed body communications equipment for enhanced operational effectiveness. As a result, operators develop such tell-tale idiosyncrasies as adjusting upper-body equipment, talking into their chests, fidgeting with their hands in their pockets, and checking their ears with a finger.
Observation of Dress
Habits of dress are characteristics an individual develops over a lifetime. They are influenced by factors such as background, heritage, status, profession, and life-style. Some individuals are meticulous in the selection and maintenance of their clothing while others give this aspect of their outward appearance little concern. A person’s position along this spectrum of dress dictates the fashion in which he feels natural, comfortable, and confident. This is an important factor from the perspective of surveillance detection because individuals have a tendency to appear unnatural when dressing in a manner that does not conform to their standard of fashion. A surveillance operator may be required to dress in a manner that is not natural for him in order to blend in with a particular situation and surrounding. The appearance of dress and mannerisms associated with discomfort or unfamiliarity may be detected by the Principal.Dress is an aspect of appearance that is more readily observed from a distance than many others, such as body features. Unless someone is making an active effort to observe the dress of surrounding individuals, his attention will normally be drawn only to clothing that does not conform to his standards.
Unique, striking, or colorful clothing will usually draw involuntary attention. Although clothing is an important criterion for the observation of surrounding individuals for detection purposes, a sophisticated surveillance team will make efforts to minimize the impact that dress might have on the compromise of surveillance operators. They will there ore dress in a manner that conforms to the standards of the surrounding populace. Furthermore, the surveillance effort will likely capitalize on the ease with which appearance can be altered by changing clothing in order to degrade the effectiveness of surveillance detection. Dress also includes jewelry. A sophisticated surveillance effort will generally forego wearing it because the purpose of jewelry is to attract attention-which, of course, the surveillance effort is actively attempting to avoid. There are, however, some cases in which wearing jewelry lends itself to surveillance detection. Most basically, there are some minor items of jewelry, such as wedding bands and watches, that surveillance operators may continue to wear despite the risk. A watch is an extremely important piece of equipment to surveillance operators. Since they will rarely own enough watches to match the number of times they are required to change clothing, they will generally accept the risk of wearing the same watch. Rings will generally leave identifiable marks such as tan lines on the fingers. When a surveillance operator changes clothing, he may opt to continue wearing a ring if there is no replacement, because otherwise the resulting identifiable mark will appear even more conspicuous to the individual practicing surveillance detection.
Observation of Disguise
The fact that a sophisticated surveillance effort will use disguise to minimize the probability of detection is n aspect of surveillance detection that can make observation difficult. The initial exposure of a surveillance operator to the Principal is not critical, but all subsequent instances of exposure disproportionately increase the probability of detection. The use of disguise allows a surveillance team to project the appearance of different individuals, making it much more difficult for the Principal to isolate a single surveillance operator for detection. Recall that for the purposes of surveillance detection, observation involves concentrating on features, form, dress, and mannerisms. Surveillance operators use disguise to alter each of these aspects of appearance and thereby deceive the Principal. Many characteristics of appearance are easy to alter, while others are difficult if not impossible. Most features require extensive disguising techniques to conceal or alter. The primary exception to this is hair, which is the single most effective means of altering appearance. By cutting, dying, or restyling hair, or shaving facial hair, a surveillance operator can drastically alter his appearance.Form is altered primarily by clothing. Changing to or from loose-fitting clothing can project the illusion of a different form. Deceptive devices such as shoulder pads or pregnancy pillows may also be used to alter form. Height can only be altered by thick-soled or heeled shoes, which are readily detectable through observation.
Changing posture can also alter form. Surveillance operators use clothing to alter appearance by simply changing clothing from one portion of a surveillance operation to another. Altering mannerisms is more difficult because it requires constant concentration on the part of a surveillance operator. Some mannerisms are physically impossible to alter or conceal. Although disguise makes surveillance detection much more difficult, there are techniques that can be used to minimize its effectiveness. The first critical factor to understand is that if a disguise is not complete, it actually increases the surveillance operator’s vulnerability to detection by an actively observant Principal. Normally the degree of disguise that a surveillance operator employs is proportionate to the degree to which he has been exposed to the Principal. This is a subjective judgment that is also influenced by an assessment of how observant the Principal may be. In many cases the surveillance operator will employ only a partial disguise as a standard security precaution after a period of minimal exposure to the Principal. A total disguise is reserved for circumstances in which the surveillance operator was forced relatively close to, or received a degree of scrutiny from, the Principal. This can be exploited in surveillance detection. The Principal should practice observation in a manner that is natural and unalarming. This serves to deceive surveillance operators into employing partial disguise as opposed to total disguise. One of the most effective methods of surveillance detection is to confirm that a surveillance operator is using disguise. By using a partial disguise, a surveillance operator may alter some characteristics of appearance while leaving others unaltered. For example, the urveillance operator may shave his mustache, restyle his hair, and change clothes, but leave on the same pair of shoes, the same atch, and walk with the same stride. This can completely reverse the effects of disguise by confirming to the observant Principal that surveillance is present.
Observation at Night
Observation is significantly limited at night due the obvious physiological limitations of the eyes. Visual illusions are also common when observing at night. An understanding of the principles of darkness adaptation will assist in the effectiveness of night observation. Darkness adaptation is the process by which the human eye increases in sensitivity to low levels of light. Since vision is made possible by reflected light, effective observation is directly proportional to the degree of light available. Although individuals vary in degrees and rates of dark adaptation, eye sensitivity generally increases about 10,000 times during the first 30 minutes in the dark. After that point eye sensitivity increases very little. Visual sharpness at night is about one-seventh of what it is during the day, significantly reducing visual acuity. This dictates that object identification at night is generally limited to silhouettes and forms. Depth and color perception are also affected. At night, color perception is generally limited to distinguishing between light and dark colors, and even this is dependent on the intensity of reflected light. Adaptation is adversely affected by exposure to bright lights such as matches and headlights. In order to maintain darkness adaptation, the eyes should be covered to avoid the effects of such lights. Recall that initial adaptation takes up to 30 minutes. Recovery from exposure to bright lights can take up to 45 min utes. Adaptation to darkness is adversely affected by the use of night vision devices. If full adaptation is made before using night vision devices, however, it can be regained within two minutes after their use. The use of night vision devices decreases the senses of hearing and smell due to the concentration required for effective sight. There are two methods of observation that can be used to enhance visual effectiveness in darkness. Both are based on the fact that central viewing, or looking directly at an object, is ineffective at night due to the night blind spot that exists during low illumination. At night, it is essential to avoid looking directly at a faintly visible object because of this night blind spot.Scanning is a method which enables the Principal to overcome many of the physiological limitations of the eyes as well as reducing confusing visual illusions in darkness. This method consists of scanning from left to right, or right to left, using a slow, standardized eye movement. Figure 1 depicts two typical scan ning patterns. Off-center viewing is another way to avoid the limitations of central viewing at night. This technique consists of viewing an object by looking slightly above, below, or to either side rather than directly at it. Figure 2 depicts points of observation (circles) around the target object.
Even when off-center viewing is used, the image of an object becomes a solid, bleached-out tone when viewed for longer than three to five seconds. For this reason, it is important to shift the eyes regularly from one off-center point to another to maintain an uninterrupted peripheral field of vision.
I hope this article has enlightened you on the skills required for our job. It sure aint easy and it is why we charge what we do and deliver what we promise to!
Amit Sen, a commercial pilot by training, has over 15 years experience in the space of corporate investigations, handling Copyright & Trademark infringement cases, Pre – employment verification Industrial Espionage investigations, Asset & Net – Worth assessment assignments and vendor / supplier verification cases, among others. Co-founder of Alliance One – which is the best private investigation firm in India. Amit has also successfully completed assignments in a wide range of sectors, including the machine tools industry, pharmaceutical industry, hospitality sector, specialized equipment (Oil & natural gas sector, aviation industry etc.), telecom industry & the IT & ITes sectors. These cases have all involved both offline and online investigations.
The stakeout, the pick-up, the follow, and the box – sounds like the name of the latest Guy Ritchie Movie doesn’t it? Well this is private investigation jargon especially in the light of surveillance operations. In an earlier post I had touched upon surveillance services for an individual or corporation. Today let me touch upon counter-surveillance which is the exact opposite i.e. to detect whether someone is conducting surveillance on you and to thwart their efforts. As one of the top anti-surveillance operators in India today, we are called upon on many cases where a client suspects that he / she is being spied upon or is being followed. So our job is to detect the circumstances under which the person is being surveilled and provide countermeasures for him / her so that any future surveillance activity by someone is hampered. Surveillance countermeasures are conducted and based directly on the tactics of surveillance they are used to detect or defeat, and thus a keen understanding of the opposition’s tactics is essential to their effective execution. Here in this article I will try and detail how the surveillance threat operates.
This article is by no means a comprehensive tutorial on surveillance; rather, it is designed as an overview to be used as the basis for understanding the way that someone could have put you under surveillance. The countermeasures principles and tactics that our private intelligence agency follows in counter surveillance operations will depend upon our knowledge of surveillance and as such if you value your privacy you must know the various methods of surveillance that an investigation agency follows so that you can be armed with the knowledge of the preventive measures that we will undertake later.
* When I use the word Principle I mean the person who is being followed.
Physical surveillance is the systematic, discreet observation of an individual to develop information regarding his activities. It differs from technical surveillance in that our surveillance operators must observe the Principal physically. It is the only means by which a Principal can be observed constantly over an extended period of time. A professional and effective surveillance is orchestrated in a systematic manner. This is accomplished through tactics that will ensure discreet coverage of a Principal.
A surveillance operation can only be effective if it goes undetected by the Principal or anyone else, such as neighbors, associates, employees, passersby, and so on. Surveillance is employed to identify and document significant activities of a Principal that satisfy the objectives of the specific operation. Developing information through surveillance is a progressive and often lengthy process. It is from many pieces of information that an overall picture of the Principal’s behavioral patterns is developed.
A surveillance operation will normally begin with limited information regarding the Principal’s activities. It may begin by developing such information in order to identify those times or activities on which to focus the surveillance effort. As information is developed, target pattern analysis is conducted to determine which patterns the surveillance team can exploit to anticipate the Principal’s actions more effectively. This also enables the surveillance team to determine which times and activities may be significant in satisfying the objectives of the operation, as opposed to those that are routine and insignificant, allowing it to cover a Principal efficiently by concentrating on those with the highest potential payoff. It also serves to limit the amount of time that surveillance operators and vehicles maybe exposed to the Principal.
A surveillance vehicle or operator can use anything that offers concealment to obstruct the Principal’s view. A surveillance vehicle provides a degree of concealment, as do structures such as buildings. Another example of concealment might be the positioning of a surveillance operator inside a building so as to observe the Principal out of the windows. Darkness is another form of concealment. Cover and cover for action are concepts that are extremely critical to the effectiveness and security of any surveillance operation. Cover is a broad term that generally applies to anything a surveillance operator or vehicle uses to appear natural when observation by the Principal, countersurveillance, or any other third parties is possible.
During a foot surveillance operation, cover consists primarily of pedestrians in the area. During a vehicular surveillance operation, cover consists primarily of vehicular traffic on the roads. In both situations, the surrounding traffic enables the surveillance operator or vehicle to blend in and appear as any other pedestrian or vehicle. Cover for action is a more specific term that refers to actions the surveillance operator takes to establish a plausible reason for being in a given location or undertaking a given activity. For example, a surveillance operator can use a telephone booth for cover, but he must actually place money in the phone and make a call to establish a cover for action.
There are two primary types of physical surveillance: fixed and mobile.
Fixed surveillance consists of observing the Principal’s activities at a specified location from a static position. Such operations will only satisfy specific objectives because they provide limited insight into the Principal’s overall activities. They are normally employed when it is suspected that the Principal will conduct protected activities at a specific location, such as his residence, his workplace, an associate’s residence, or an establishment he frequents. Fixed positions are normally manned by surveillance operators or monitored through remote video equipment. A surveillance team may use any number of fixed positions during a fixed surveillance operation. One common example of a fixed surveillance is when the surveillance team establishes static positions along designated route to confirm the Principal’s direction of travel. Most fixed surveillance operations use an established observation post that enables surveillance operators to maintain constant, discreet observation of the specified location.
Mobile surveillance is employed to satisfy any objectives of physical surveillance that cannot be accomplished through a fixed operation. In mobile surveillance operations, the surveillance team observes the Principal’s activities while he is traveling. Of course, this requires that surveillance operators and vehicles move with him. Mobile surveillance operations are conducted either on foot, by vehicle, or with a combination of both. Mobile and fixed surveillance may be used concurrently to enhance the effectiveness of an operation. Fixed observation posts are frequently employed to support mobile surveillance operations.
Phases of a Mobile Surveillance Operation
A mobile surveillance operation is a fluid sequence of tactical maneuvers that are dictated primarily by the actions of the Principal. (This is not to say that the Principal has any advantage against a professional surveillance effort.) In order to effectively cover the Principal, the team must maintain synchronization through a phased operation with a unity of tactical discipline and purpose.
A comprehensive surveillance operation is conducted in four phases: the stakeout, the pick-up, the follow, and the box. It will progress through these phases based on the Principal’s actions. Ideally, an operation will move through these four phases and then shift the order in which they are implemented in reaction to the Principal’s activities.
The stakeout involves positioning surveillance vehicles or operators based on how the team intends to establish initial command of the Principal. This consists of the logical coverage of a specified area to ensure that when the Principal appears, the team will be able make a smooth and effective transition from static positions to a mobile surveillance follow. This is accomplished primarily by the use of a boxing method intended to cover all routes of travel into and out of the specified area.The pick-up occurs when the surveillance team establishes initial command of the Principal. It is the result of a successful stakeout or surveillance box. The follow begins immediately after the pick-up.
This phase encompasses all aspects of the surveillance operation that occur while the Principal is under command. The box phase begins as the Principal stops during a surveillance follow. As with the takeout box, a standard surveillance box is a logical positioning of surveillance vehicles or operators to cover all routes of travel out of a specified area. The primary difference between the two types of boxes is that with the standard surveillance box, there is a degree of command over the Principal because the surveillance team is certain he is positioned somewhere within the box.
Methods of Mobile Surveillance
There are four primary methods of mobile physical surveillance: vehicular surveillance, foot surveillance, combined foot and vehicular surveillance, and progressive surveillance.
The first three are purely mobile surveillance; progressive surveillance makes use of mobile surveillance, fixed surveillance, or a combination of the two.
Vehicular surveillance operations are conducted to determine the Principal’s activities while traveling by vehicle. They are normally used to determine general travel patterns rather than to develop specific information. Vehicular surveillance is effective when employed at the outset of an operation to collect data for target pattern analysis while minimizing the initial exposure of operators to the Principal. Vehicular surveillance is an integral aspect of most physical surveillance operations. The Principal will rarely travel exclusively by foot. Even when operating against a Principal who travels primarily by public transportation, the surveillance team must rely on vehicles for control and mobility. Although the surveillance team will rarely observe a Principal conducting protected activity while traveling by vehicle, it is understood that the Principal will travel by vehicle to reach the location where such activity may occur.Vehicular and foot surveillance share many operational tactics.
Vehicular surveillance, however, is a more exact science because routes of travel are generally restricted to, or channelized by, established roadways. This can be used to the advantage of a capable surveillance team, but in the same way, it can be used to the advantage of a resourceful Principal. There is also less maneuverability in vehicular surveillance because a surveillance vehicle has less flexibility to turn around and reposition discreetly. This disadvantage is overcome only by expertise in teamwork and tactical applications.
A vehicular surveillance will begin with the stakeout of a specified location at which the surveillance team expects to establish initial command of the Principal. The location is selected based on assumptions about when and where the Principal is likely to appear. Primary stakeout locations are the Principal’s residence and workplace. The Principal is normally expected to stay the night at his residence, depart sometime during the day, and return to his residence by the end of the day. He can also be expected to appear at his place of work with some degree of regularity. These standard patterns provide the surveillants with locations that promise a high probability of establishing command of the Principal.
The tactics normally used for staking out an area to pick up the Principal for a mobile surveillance follow are referred to as boxing. A stakeout is basically a logical positioning of surveillance vehicles to attain initial command of a Principal as he either travels through a specified area or emerges from it. The stakeout box conists of positioning surveillance vehicles in such a manner as to control routes of travel out of a specified area. These vehicles are positioned for pick-up as the principle drives out of the stakeout box along any of the possible routes of travel. The surveillance team may use an observation post to observe a specific location in support of its stakeout. Observation posts are normally positioned to observe a residence, business, or workplace. Using an observation post saves the team from having to expose a vehicle in order to observe the location. A surveillance team may also employ a mobile observation post, normally a van that can be parked within line of sight of the target location for observation.The pick-up phase of the surveillance begins when the Principal is first observed and ends when the follow phase begins. The follow phase begins after the Principal exits the stakeout box and the surveillance vehicle along his route of travel maneuvers to assume command of him for the mobile surveillance follow.
The follow phase encompasses all surveillance activities conducted while the Principal is mobile. During the follow, the surveillance team must have at least one vehicle (the command vehicle) with visual observation of the Principal, normally following from behind. The following distance of the vehicular surveillance team will be dictated primarily by the terrain, available cover, traffic obstacles, and traffic hazards. Cover will normally consist of surrounding traffic into which the team can blend to appear natural. Traffic obstacles such as dense traffic, traffic signals, and construction zones may deter the surveillance team from maintaining command of the Principal. Therefore, the team will normally need to maintain a closer following distance when confronted by significant traffic obstacles. Traffic hazards such as highway interchanges offer the Principal high-speed or multiple avenues of escape. Since it is important that the surveillants have command of the Principal when entering a traffic hazard, they will normally close their following distance when approaching one. A tactically sound surveillance team will exchange command vehicle positions frequently during the course of the follow to remain discreet and minimize the exposure of any one vehicle.
This may be done at any time but primarily in reaction to a turn by the Principal. Exposure can also be minimized by utilizing the cover and concealment of surrounding traffic.Communications equipment is critical to the vehicular surveillance team. The ability of all of the surveillance vehicles to communicate allows them to rely on the transmissions of the command vehicle to guide their activities. This enables team members to maneuver effectively without having to rely on their visual observations of the Principal or other surveillance vehicles. A surveillance vehicle normally has two operators, a driver and a navigator. The navigator reads a map and directs the driver. When in the command vehicle position, the navigator transmits the Principal’s location and actions to the entire team. Otherwise, the navigator will monitor the radio in order to track the Principal’s location on the map and direct the driver to maneuver in a manner that supports the operation.The mobile surveillance follow will transition directly to the box phase anytime the Principal stops, excluding normal traffic stops. This consists of the surveillance team maneuvering to box positions around the Principal’s stopping point. As with the stakeout box, surveillance vehicles will establish positions along each of the Principal’s possible routes of departure in order to pick him up when he begins to move and leaves the box location.
The surveillance team will normally position a vehicle in a location from which its occupants can physically observe the stationary Principal vehicle and inform the team when it begins to move. As the Principal begins to move, the pick-up phase is again initiated. The follow phase begins again after the Principal exits the box and the surveillance vehicle along his route of travel maneuvers to assume command of him for the mobile surveillance follow.
Night surveillance operations are significantly different from those conducted in daytime. The basic tactics remain the same, but darkness imposes many additional considerations. The very nature of night surveillance dictates that the surveillance team must concentrate on more technically intricate concepts and tactical applications. This may include the use of night vision equipment or specialized controls to prevent the surveillance vehicle’s brake lights from projecting when the brake pedal is engaged. Since the surveillance vehicle’s lights are the most visible signature the team will project to the Principal, the lights must be in proper working order and must not project in an unusual manner that may bring the vehicle to the Principal’s attention.
Due to the darkness, it is difficult for the Principal to recognize a surveillance vehicle by any means other than the lights. This is an advantage in itself, but there are many disadvantages inherent in this aspect of night surveillance as well. These are directly related to the fact that there is generally less traffic cover at night. In crowded urban areas, the lights of surrounding vehicles can make the surveillance team virtually invisible to the Principal. As the hour gets later and the traffic density decreases, the surveillance vehicle’s lights make it virtually impossible for it to remain discreet. In the absence of sufficient cover, vehicle lights are detectable at a significant distance, making it easier for the Principal to detect surveillance vehicles.
Amit Sen, a commercial pilot by training, has over 15 years experience in the space of corporate investigations, handling Copyright & Trademark infringement cases, Pre – employment verification Industrial Espionage investigations, Asset & Net – Worth assessment assignments and vendor / supplier verification cases, among others. Co-founder of Alliance One – which is the best private investigation agency in India. Amit has also successfully completed assignments in a wide range of sectors, including the machine tools industry, pharmaceutical industry, hospitality sector, specialized equipment (Oil & natural gas sector, aviation industry etc.), telecom industry & the IT & ITes sectors. These cases have all involved both offline and online investigations
I have often been praised for the branding of our private investigation business which comes across as nothing short of top-notch and world class among the deluge of competitors out there whom we have surpassed long back both in revenues as well as market share. And what is the secret of our success? Here’s the answer: Branding!
What I am going to talk about today in this blog post holds true not just for a private investigation business like ours but for any business. Too often small to medium enterprise business owners in India suffer from a lack of foresight when it comes to branding their business. Too often they are stuck with a poorly designed logo, a pathetic old fashioned website while the rest of their marketing communications is hopelessly outdated. What is the impression that a business like this projects to the outside world – in one word: CHEAP & UNPROFESSIONAL.
It’s All About Perception
How would someone perceive you if you came dressed to an important meeting in tacky, unkempt, ill-fitting and unsuitable attire? We all know the impression that a premium car like a Jaguar makes vs. say a Maruti. You wouldn’t be caught dead driving to a party or a wedding reception in a Maruti would you?! So if you can afford to spend lakhs and crores every year on your attire, accessories, the latest cars, doing up your home interiors and so on, why not spend the same amount of money on clothing your business in the best designer clothes so that you make a smart and favourable impression upon the entire world!?
A lot of times the problem with small business owners lies in their mindset which is strongly resistant to change. Business owners stuck in the old mindset want to do everything themselves – right from designing the logo, to doing up the interiors of their offices! The result most times is nothing short of terrible. Here’s an advice – Leave the work of branding and marketing of your business to the experts. Sorry if you think that logo that you have created is the best logo in the world! Its isn’t The rest of the world will soon be laughing at you when they open that flash website that you have co-designed with your web designer featuring those blinking eyes and the gaudy neon colours!
It is a smart businessman or woman who realises the value of branding and does not hesitate to pay top bucks to dress up his / her business because at the end of the day your brand is your business! The poorer the perception of your brand, the poorer you will be when it comes to reaping the long term value of your business assets.
Hire a Marketing Consultant
Branding is Your Company’s Personality
Using the services of a marketing expert is expensive but can be hugely profitable in the long run. This person will be able to assist in developing your advertising,
including business cards, stationery, and brochures. To assist in your marketing endeavors, “branding” of your business is essential. Branding, a commonly used term throughout the business world, essentially means to create an identifiable entity that makes a promise of value. It means that you have created a consciousness, an image, and an awareness of your business. It is your company’s personality.
A brand is also a kind of promise. It is a set of fundamental principles as understood by anyone who comes into contact with a company. A brand is an organization’s “reason for being.” It is how that reason is expressed through the various communications to its key audiences, including customers, shareholders, employees, and analysts. A brand should also represent the desired attributes of a company’s products, services, and initiatives. Many businesses try but fail to create a successful brand. Here are ten of the most common mistakes:
1. Not thinking analytically.
Too many companies think of branding as marketing or as having a catch phrase or a logo. It is more than simply vying for attention. A brand warrants attention on a consistent basis, and represents something that your customer wants, but does not get, from your competitors. For example, it could be providing the best customer service in your industry — not just through your tagline or logo — but by actually providing the best customer service in your industry.
2. Not maintaining your brand.
Too often, in a shaky economy, businesses are quick to change or alter their identity. Too much of this confuses your steady customers. For guidance, think of big brands: Nike, for instance has used “Just Do It” as a slogan for years. One rule of thumb is that it is when you have become tired of your logo, tagline, or branding efforts, that they begin to sink in with customers.
3. Trying to appease everyone.
You will never be able to brand yourself in such a way that everyone will like you. Typically, the best you can do is to focus on the niche market for your product.
4. Not knowing who you really are.
If you are not the fastest overnight delivery service in the world, do not profess to be. Too many business owners think that they are providing something that they do not provide. Know your strengths and weaknesses through honest analysis of what you do best.
5. Not fully committing to branding.
Often business owners let the marketing and advertising departments handle such things as branding, while others work on sales and other important parts of the business. Sales and branding, however, are tied together as integral aspects of your business. Many Fortune 500 companies are where they are today because smart branding made them household names.
6. Not sharing the joke.
If only the people in your office get a joke, it is not going to play to a large audience. The same holds true for branding. If your campaign is created for you and not “them,” your brand will not succeed.
7. Not having a dedicated marketing plan.
Many companies come up with ideas to market themselves and establish a brand identity but have neither the resources nor a plan for how they will reach their audience. You must have a well-thought-out marketing plan in place before your branding strategy will work.
8. Using too much jargon.
Business-to-business-based companies are most guilty of piling on the jargon. From benchmark to strategic partnering to value added, jargon does not benefit branding. If anything, it muddles your message.
9. Trying too hard to be different.
Being different for the sake of being different is not branding. Yes, you will be noticed, but not necessarily in a way that increases sales.
10. Not knowing when you have them.
Companies that have succeeded in branding need to know when to spend fewer resources on establishing their brand, while continuing to maintain that which they have established. Monitor the results of your branding campaign. If your small business is a local household word, you can spend more time maintaining your professional image.
Not unlike a business plan, a marketing plan can play an important role in the success of your small business. Although the plan is primarily for your purposes, it should include:
• your products and/or services
• your demographic audience
• methods of selling
• your budget
• your geographic market
• your competition and your competitive edge
• an overview of the marketing tools available: media outlets, public relations (PR) possibilities, community activities, conferences, potential speaking engagements, and so on.
Create a Marketing Strategy
Do you want to be a Bajaj or a Ferrari?
Nothing wrong in being a Bajaj. They are a populist brand while a Ferrari is elitist. It’s all about how they have positioned themselves in the market. You have to decide who is your target audience when you start the process of branding and marketing. The final objective of your marketing plan is to ‘position’ yourself and thus define whom you are trying to reach, what you are selling, how you will reach this audience, and how much it will cost to do so. You will then devise a means of communicating your message to your audience. Positioning your brand can also be a good filtering mechanism for removing the cheap clients from those who want to go with the market leaders and rest assured that their job will be done. For example I have positioned Alliance One as a premium trustworthy private intelligence company unlike the scores of janta private detective agencies that one can find on Justdial. So the clients and customers who are looking for a bargain are automatically weeded out when they look at our website thereby saving our time on unfruitful customers. Those looking for cheap services will not contact us because they know that we are premium and they cannot afford us whereas those who value expertise, dedication and top notch service will go for our services because they know that even though we charge 50% more than what low rung private investigators charge in the long run they end up saving because the quality and results that they will get is unparalleled. It is the difference in the quality between a Ferarri and a Bajaj Autorickshaw! There just isn’t any comparison! People who buy Ferraris do not bargain. They know the value that they are getting for their money.
For example, if your plan is to increase the sale of your brand of healthy popcorn to a teen market, you might show how you will distribute samples at school activities, sponsor a series of events for teens, and propose articles on the health benefits of your popcorn to teen-oriented magazines and web sites.
Within your marketing plan, show how you will use diverse methods to get your message across, including different forms of media, product samples, sponsorship, and so on. Also, maintain a level of marketing at all times. In busier seasons, you will need a more aggressive approach; during the slower seasons, you may just want to keep your brand in front of your audience. Define such a strategy in your plan.
Define Your Image
Professional or Stereotypical
Before developing or revising your sales and marketing material be sure to properly identify your market — not everyone is your market — then build your business image and brand to align with the market you want to capture. Private investigators often think and /or want to look like “PIs.” For instance, Amit’s father’s first logo was the “spy in the trench coat.” This is the image television created for the private investigator, however, it is not the image professional lawyers, insurance adjustors, and business professionals look for when hiring a private investigator. They are looking for professionalism when hiring a private investigator. They are not looking for the spy in the back alley. They do not care how you do what you do. They care about the results of your work.
Attorneys care about winning their cases. They want a private investigator who can not only conduct a thorough investigation but also provide them a concise, well-written report and be credible to their client and on the witness stand. The image you choose for your agency should not be based on what you think or what you like. It should be based on what your market wants. Another common mistake made on a regular basis is the text in brochures and on websites. When people are new in business, they have a tendency to create a brochure and/or website that tells all about them and the services they provide.
First, people do not buy services, they buy benefits. You might be asking what the difference is. A service is just that, a service. It focuses on what you provide. A benefit is what the prospect will receive from the service you provide. It should evoke a positive emotion and create a desire within the prospect to want what you provide. It has to be about them. People are tuned into the radio station and are listening to their ad but they are thinking – what’s in it for me. So it is important to talk about what is in it for them instead of what you do. For example, the service could be a background check. The benefit would be to decrease employee turnover and increase profit margin.
Second, prospective clients do not care about who you are until they know you can provide something they need.
Third, prospective clients do not care about your past accolades. They want to know what you can do for them today. To create effective marketing pieces, the focus needs to be not on you and your business but on your client market, their needs, and how you can fulfill those needs. This takes knowing and understanding your market.
Marketing is an Attitude
I leave you with a last thought that can alter the future of your business dramatically and create a brand and an asset that will last for generations – Remember just about everything in life is about presentation and the devil lies in the details. And that means paying attention to the design of your brochures, your business cards, your website, the way your company’s receptionist speaks on the phone and so on. Every small thing sends the message loud and clear to everyone who comes in contact with you about you – of whether you are struggling and cheap or whether you are successful. Guess what, people do not want to do business with struggling or cheap people! This does not give them a sense of security and confidence. People want to hire successful people. They want to feel confident in those they hire and know that the job will be done properly and professionally.
Atin Dasgupta is a Branding and Web Marketing Consultant based in Mumbai, India. A web designer & SEO, musician, writer and filmmaker all rolled into one gives Atin the versatility, the fluency and a unique approach to branding and marketing which helps him get the job done with fewer people and fewer resources! Atin works on only one brand at a time and works specifically with SME’s who want want to mould their personality from old to modern. Atin guides their design and evolution from staid and boring to professional and magical in a short time and at a small fraction of the cost that a branding house or an ad agency would charge! Alliance One – a private investigation firm in Mumbai is his latest baby. Atin lives in Mumbai and can be contacted on +91 98206 07875. Read more about Atin here.
For private investigation firms like ours, there is probably no more important skill to master than that of conducting surveillance. Surveillance is the cornerstone of many investigation businesses, and it is the successful conduct of surveillance that makes or breaks their reputation and, therefore, their ability to make a living. Let me make our surveillance techniques clear to you so that if you are hiring our services you can understand better our techniques.
Surveillance is the surreptitious (unseen) observation of a person, people, or site. Surveillance can be recorded by written notes, dictation, still camera, or video camera. There are numerous elements in conducting a successful surveillance. Many of these will be discussed in detail in our blog, but there are four critical aspects that we always follow, the lack of any of which will render our surveillance unsuccessful. Those four elements are as follows:
1. Locating and positively identifying the subject of the surveillance.
2. Remaining concealed; that is, not getting burned.
3. Operating the camera to produce professional results.
4. Successfully tailing (not losing) the subject.
Ignore the above fundas, and the private investigator will surely fail.
Imagine that you have been given the assignment of conducting surveillance on an important insurance claim. More than Rs. 1 crore in potential settlement fees ride on whether you can successfully take video of the claimant, who is suspected of faking a back injury. You set up across the street from the subject’s house in your car. He comes out of the house sometime later and drives away toward town. You follow, barely able to keep an eye on him, let alone see what he is doing. Suddenly he runs a red light, and you decide to follow him. He notices you do it and drives straight home. When he arrives home, he notices your vehicle stopping a few houses down the street. Your surveillance is blown, but what did you do wrong? Everything! Before we can conduct a successful surveillance, we must first know what it is. In order to learn about the foundations of surveillance, we are going to dissect surveillance operations and see just what surveillance is and is not.
SCOPE AND PURPOSE OF SURVEILLANCE
The primary purpose of surveillance operations is to gather intelligence. We want to learn what is going on. Once we have gathered intelligence, it can be used to decide what further investigative steps or actions need to be accomplished. Once we have decided that we do in fact need to conduct surveillance, we need to figure out how we want to approach this surveillance. Is it important that the claimant, or subject as we shall call him, not know he is being surveilled. Let us look at the two categories of surveillance.
CATEGORIES OF SURVEILLANCE
There are two general categories of surveillance relating to intensity or sensitivity:
• Discreet Surveillance
The subject is unaware that he is under observation. This is the usual meaning of the term surveillance. The adjective discreet is used merely to distinguish it from what may be termed a close, restraint, or control surveillance. The essence of discreet surveillance is that the subject is unaware of being watched. Generally, the guiding rule is to discontinue surveillance rather than risk actions which make the subject aware of the observation.
• Close Surveillance
A close surveillance is one in which maintaining constant observation of the subject is the paramount objective, even though the subject may become aware of the surveillance. Surveillance to provide protection is frequently of this nature. This type of surveillance can also be used as a preventive measure to deter individuals from committing illegal acts or from fleeing, once they become aware of an investigation or operation.
Private investigators involved in personal protection details are in fact conducting “close surveillance” of their principal. So now that we have decided which category of surveillance we want to employ, how are we going to go about this? We will now look at the five methods of surveillance available to us.
METHODS OF SURVEILLANCE
The following are the types of surveillance methods that are used most often:
• Fixed Point: A fixed surveillance point is one in which the surveillance remains in a relatively fixed position to observe the activities at a specific location. These fixed points are usually predetermined locations selected after extensive analysis of the subject and his or her activities.
• Moving: In a moving surveillance, the investigator follows the subject from place to place to maintain continuous watch over his or her activities. The movement may be on foot or by vehicle and include land, water, air, or any combination of these.
• Technical: This type of surveillance is accomplished by the use of technical visual devices, electronic listening devices, vehicle trackers, and signaling devices.
• Photographic: Often considered part of technical surveillance, the term technical implies that the agent must be a technician or electronics expert to accomplish the task. However, all investigators must be able to accomplish photographic surveillance coverage, which is why we treat this as a separate method.
• Combination or Mixed: A combination of technical, fixed, moving, and photographic surveillance is usually the most expensive in terms of money and investigative effort but will often achieve the best results. In almost all surveillance operations, we employ a combination of the different types of surveillance methods.
From what I have said so far, it is easy to see that surveillance might be confused with an undercover operation, but there are some definite differences between the two.
OBJECTIVES OF SURVEILLANCE
Surveillance is employed by investigators as an aid in achieving investigative objectives that vary with the requirements of the case and the particular circumstances prevailing in a given place at a given time. Some of the most common objectives of surveillance are as follows:
• Obtain information or develop leads
• Obtain evidence of a crime that has been committed or to observe a crime actually being committed.
• Check the reliability of informants or their information.
• Check the loyalty of employees.
• Monitor the movements and activities of subjects.
• Determine if a subject is frequenting a certain establishment or location.
• Establish a subject’s habits, such as his or her hangouts, associates, or place of employment.
• Confirm a subject’s whereabouts.
These are not the only considerations we should take into account before we initiate surveillance, however. There are other factors we should consider.
Knowledge of the case and the subject is necessary prior to initiation of the surveillance. In many cases, fragmentary information concerning activities, habits, and routine of a subject will be available through in formation, documentary evidence, records reviews, and similar means. The necessity for surveillance is frequently determined on the basis of a picture created by this fragmentary information. Careful study of the information by the investigators will enable them to visualize activities, determine the type of surveillance, consider the proper methods to use, minimize the chances of error, and save time that might otherwise be devoted to useless action. Surveillance is often the most costly, boring, monotonous, and unrewarding investigative technique in which you will ever be involved. Careful consideration must be given before surveillance is initiated. Continuous surveillance is difficult at best. To accomplish surveillance, the recommended approach is to carefully case the area, study and analyze the subject, exploit all developed information, and then plan and execute the surveillance. Prior to conducting a surveillance, and indeed critical to the decision of whether one will be conducted at all, is the area of legal and policy considerations. Just as there are rules, regulations, laws, and policies that direct our actions in all other phases of investigations, they exist to guide us in the conduct of surveillances.
Physical surveillances may usually be conducted where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Surveillances conducted where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, such as a technical surveillance, may be a violation of law. Therefore, surveillance must be conducted in the least intrusive manner possible. When surveillance is deemed necessary, it will be conducted within the scope of the laws, regulations, and guidelines set forth to direct it. Prior to conducting surveillance, it is imperative you understand what you legally can and cannot do during the course of the surveillance.
AREA CASING AND SUBJECT STUDY
If you knew there was something you could do that would make the rest of the work you do easier and would greatly increase your chances for success, you would probably do it. Well, what we are going to be talking about during this block of training is exactly that: something that can definitely make your surveillance operation easier and will help you achieve success. In preparation for conducting a physical surveillance, the first step is to carefully case the area and study the subject. Without this careful planning it is doubtful a successful investigation and surveillance could be conducted. Casing the area in which the subject resides, works, or participates in leisure activities provides the investigator with valuable information on the subject’s environment, leading to a better understanding of character, personality, and motivation. Knowledge of the area in which the subject resides provides information on the mode of living, and may help provide the necessary background information for planning the development of the investigation and surveillance if necessary. In the next blog post, we will examine the following areas:
1. area casing
2. other area factors
3. maps and map reading
4. subject study
5. informant recruiting in surveillance
Amit Sen, a commercial pilot by training, has over 15 years experience in the space of corporate investigations, handling Copyright & Trademark infringement cases, Pre – employment verification Industrial Espionage investigations, Asset & Net – Worth assessment assignments and vendor / supplier verification cases, among others. Co-founder of Alliance One – which is the best private investigation agency in India. Amit has also successfully completed assignments in a wide range of sectors, including the machine tools industry, pharmaceutical industry, hospitality sector, specialized equipment (Oil & natural gas sector, aviation industry etc.), telecom industry & the IT & ITes sectors. These cases have all involved both offline and online investigations
Individuals entering the private investigation career field come from many different backgrounds. The vast majority come from law enforcement agencies within the local governments as well as the police and military services. In recent years, many have come directly into the private investigation market from colleges and universities where they have received degrees in criminal justice, forensic science, or related fields.
Experienced investigators, frequently retirees entering a second career either for additional financial resources or for the love of the business, normally have many years of investigative experience. Depending on the organization from which they retired, they may not have the appropriate management skills for business success. During their career prior to retirement, the organization with which they were employed had a support staff to take care of all of the non investigative matters, such as financial administration, supply acquisition and personnel management.
Corporate Investigators vs Private Investigators
Retirees desiring to be business owners must acquire these skills to be successful. Newcomers from the academic environment may have developed some theoretical skills but lack practical application of these skills. Many of these individuals have been exposed to the latest information and techniques — these they can share with their associates. Some may have been exposed to business subjects while in college but again they lack practical experience in business and personnel management. The world of private investigation is unlike public law enforcement or corporate investigations. The public law enforcement investigates or primarily deals strictly with violation of criminal laws. The corporate investigator may investigate some criminal acts occurring with the corporate environment but may also be involved with inquiries into violation of corporate policies not resulting in criminal acts. The corporate investigator may also be involved in litigation actions for inhouse or outside counsel.
The private investigator may be involved in criminal investigations, corporate internal investigations, and litigation support. The private investigator probably does not have the financial and investigative support resources of the public agency or corporation. This will cause the private investigator to depend frequently on business associates in areas where the investigator does not have appropriate skills. The philosophies of private investigation and law enforcement are different but also interrelated. Law enforcement investigators are primarily oriented to identifying someone who may have committed a criminal violation. They normally do not look into the cause of the problem or identify measures and strategies to prevent recurrence. The goal of criminal action is to punish or rehabilitate depending on the court philosophy. Restitution is not normally a viable goal. A court may order restitution, but there is little reasonable chance of recovery because of the defendant’s prison term and inability to repay.
The goal of the private investigator is multipurpose. It includes identifying the individual responsible for a criminal act or violation of corporate policies. It also includes identifying what precipitated the problem and what strategies can be employed to prevent recurrence. The corporate client will normally be concerned with public relations problems and a desire to recoup financial losses rather than initiate criminal action. Private investigators are frequently tasked to provide investigative and litigation support in legal matters affecting their employer or client.
Private & Public Sector Investigation Process
There are several major differences between private and public sector investigations. In the public sector there is normally a formalized rank reporting structure, with the role of the investigator defined in a bureaucratic manner with strict supervision. In this environment there is normally no maximum cost restriction placed on investigative effort. The goal is the solution of the problem and the identification of the responsible party. No one ever told a law enforcement investigator that he or she must solve a serious crime within a strict budget!
In the private sector, the investigator may be subordinate to an executive who has little or no investigative knowledge. These executive positions may range from chief executive officer to human resources (HR) manager or director of maintenance. This type of organization requires an education and training process for the investigator to achieve appropriate corporate objectives. In the corporate or private environment, cost is always a factor and the bottom line is the only goal. The corporate goal is normally recovery of loss and not referring a matter to law enforcement with the resultant public relations issues. In simple terms, the law enforcement agent operates in a reactive mode and the private investigator is expected to be proactive. There may be a problem with changing investigative philosophies and actions.
The role of the private investigator in the corporate environment is varied. In addition to the investigation of criminal acts and internal problems, the investigator may become involved in conducting background investigations for executive and sensitive positions as well as conducting due diligence inquires on corporate business associates and vendors.
Another role of the private investigator may be that of executive protection for at-risk individuals. This includes planning, management of, and performance of activities to protect individuals while at home, in the office, or traveling. This activity requires an awareness of risk assessment strategies and interaction with law enforcement officials.
The myriad business possibilities for the private investigator are only limited by the desire to expand business horizons. It is impossible to be an expert in every possible area of private investigation in India. It is necessary to identify a few areas for concentration of effort where the investigator has special expertise. Expertise in other investigative areas can be developed through association with other investigators with the necessary skills. An offshoot of the investigative association process is the ability to say “I can do it” to any client request. This allows the investigator to subcontract work to another investigator and still receive a management fee for controlling the investigation. It also increases the probability that your client will request additional work from you instead of going to someone else recommended for lack of expertise.
Skills that a PI Must Possess
There are numerous desirable skills that the investigator should have to be successful as a businessperson and to increase investigative knowledge. Initial exposure to these skill sets mandates that investigators remain knowledgeable of new trends and concepts. These desirable skill sets include accounting, business management, criminal and civil law, interpersonal relations, psychology, written and oral communications, computer and information management, investigative techniques, HR, fire and life safety, and professional certifications. The attainment and maintenance of professional certifications is a vital marketing tool. These professional designations, as long as they have a continuing education requirement, demonstrate that the investigator is keeping up with current information and trends. Professional designations with minimal requirements and lacking a requirement for continuing education are primarily an income-generating process with little professional value.
Starting a private investigation business requires a comprehensive inspection of numerous personal and business skills. So you see it is surely not easy to just start a private intelligence firm as a startup venture. The founding team must have highly experienced professionals on board along with young graduates who are trained in various investigative and forensic sciences. Success is not guaranteed overnight or in 3 year or 5 year projections. It takes years of hard work to establish a business and a solid reputation.
Amit Sen, a commercial pilot by training, has over 15 years experience in the space of corporate investigations, handling Copyright & Trademark infringement cases, Pre – employment verification Industrial Espionage investigations, Asset & Net – Worth assessment assignments and vendor / supplier verification cases, among others. Co-founder of Alliance One – which is the best private investigation company in India. Amit has also successfully completed assignments in a wide range of sectors, including the machine tools industry, pharmaceutical industry, hospitality sector, specialized equipment (Oil & natural gas sector, aviation industry etc.), telecom industry & the IT & ITes sectors. These cases have all involved both offline and online investigations