How to Avoid Being Followed
On surveillance cases, subjects may attempt to identify or shake surveillance when they begin movement. This activity is known as “dry cleaning.” Some of the tricks that a smart subject may employ (and could be employed by any subject who has read a novel or watched a movie about spies or the police) include the following. BTW these are also useful tips that you yourself could implement in the future if you suspect you are being followed by someone or a team.
A. In and Out.
Buildings, stores and shops are used by the subjects to go in and come out quickly. This activity often forces the investigator to follow the subject in and out of those same buildings, and therefore become familiar to the subject.
B. Ducks in a Row.
Basically there are four maneuvers used by the subjects to draw out surveillance and line them up like “ducks in a row.”
1. Stops (see Long and Short Stays)
a. Expressway Turn-Off.
Counter-surveillance will be sitting near the ramp ready to identify all the vehicles coming off behind the subject, or the subject will simply observe who follows them off the highway.
The subject will drive into a park or housing area where he knows the road just loops around and comes out the same way. With only one way in and out, any surveillance vehicles which follow him in will be easily identified by him as he drives out!
The subject will try to find a bridge, tunnel or road where the surveillance team has no alternative but to line up and follow—a chokepoint. At the other end, counter-surveillance will be waiting to identify surveillance vehicles as they come out of the chokepoint.
Subjects will look in the window reflections to spot surveillance. Another favorite trick is to enter a store and then look out the window. It is difficult for the surveillance team to look in, but the subject can easily see out.
Subjects will go straight to the back of a store and browse from back to front. They can then try to spot surveillance as it enters. Normally people will enter and browse from front to back.
Subjects use time as the main factor to detect surveillance. If anyone follows them in, they believe it to be surveillance. If our investigator decides to follow the subject into a restaurant, we ensure that if we order food, we order something which can be received quickly, so that the subject does not leave without us. If we see the subject leave before we receive our food, we leave our food behind and follow the subject. You can be reimbursed for the money you wasted, but losing the subject may result in a tremendous loss for us and the client!
C. Movement/No Movement.
Another favorite technique of subjects is to draw surveillance into a place where there is a great deal of movement (a busy street) and then just stop. The opposite would be to draw surveillance into an area where there is no movement and then quickly move through the area. They are looking for movement when there should be none and no movement when there should be movement.
D. Out of Uniform.
The subject will start off in one venue or part of town, but quickly move to another where the clothes you are wearing may not be appropriate. A favourite trick is to go from a business district (i.e. where business suits are appropriate) to a park (where suits are not appropriate), or from the hotel restaurant to the pool.
E. Change of Venue.
This is similar to Out of Uniform. Basically, the subject will try to draw out surveillance by moving into different areas to make it more difficult for the surveillance to cover them, force decision making process and communications.
The subject will walk down a very busy street. Suddenly, he will stop and turn around very quickly, looking at the people following him. He is looking for the one set of eyes that are looking away because everyone else will probably be looking at them since they stopped abruptly!
G. Throw-Aways (bait).
Subjects will throw an item away in plain view. This diverts your attention and eyes. While you are looking one way, they may be noting the numbers on a telephone pole the other way. If someone stops to pick up the bait, counter-surveillance may then burn the surveillance. The basic philosophy behind all of these tricks is to force the investigator into making a decision. Foreign intelligence services used to say that they believed that if they forced the decision-making process, the investigator would make the wrong decision 50 percent of the time. Remember, however, we are not the only ones who make mistakes. The subject is just as likely to make mistakes as we are, and very often we can take advantage of those mistakes.
The subjects themselves often create vulnerabilities that can be exploited by investigators. In other words, they are human too, and humans make mistakes. However, if we do not know whether these vulnerabilities exist, we cannot take advantage of them. The following are some basic considerations we are always aware of in surveillance cases:
• We must know all we can about the subject prior to the surveillance. There is often a great deal of information readily available to us about the subject that we can gain through our subject study mentioned previously.
• We must think from the subject’s perspective. We need to keep our “face” (surveillance) as small as possible.
• We must “freeze the scene” on every surveillance. We should plan and conduct our surveillance so that we always come away with something. We must gather all available information and then analyze and exploit the information.
• Think Beyond Placement. We often develop good surveillance plans and place investigators in good locations but fail to think beyond the initial placement. Each investigator should know exactly what she or he is supposed to do, observe, and record while in place, and where she or he is supposed to go when activity occurs.
• Come out of the subject area the same way you went in. If you go in covertly, then come out covertly. We very often terminate a surveillance only to have a client come back later and request more work be done. If we “heat up” the subject, we are only making our job harder.
• Anticipate the unexpected. Plan, plan, plan.
• Always assume there is counter surveillance, regardless of what type of investigation you are conducting. Subjects in all types of investigations have been known to have friends or accomplices observe the area or transactions to detect if any police or investigators are present. No matter what type of subject you are surveilling, there are always going to be mistakes by the subject that you may be able to exploit. At the same time, we must guard against making mistakes ourselves. If we plan for our own movements and actions and watch for mistakes made by the subject, we can increase our chances to conduct a successful surveillance and achieve the objectives we set out to achieve.
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 detectives 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