3 Times And You Are Burned

3 Times And You Are Burned

You will soon know what I mean by the title of this article! But first let me get to the importance of a Subject Study. A subject study is the complete and systematic study and analysis of the subject of our investigation. The purpose of the subject study is to  learn as much as possible about the subject’s character, personality, habits, lifestyle, finances, activities, and motivation, so that adequate planning can be accomplished to further an investigation or to conduct surveillance. In our investigations, much of this information is provided to us by our clients, and other aspects of the subject are learned by database searches conducted before the surveillance begins.

In conjunction with area casing which you can read about in an earlier article here, a complete study of the subject must also be accomplished to understand how he or she fits into the environment. The following are some factors to consider but are  not all inclusive, depending on the type of investigation:

• Detailed physical description of subject and her or his clothes and shoes. Photographs are extremely helpful, especially from the back and sides.

• Finances, credit cards, spending habits, and location of banks used.

• Mannerisms, personal habits, walk, gait (emphasis should be on peculiarities contributing to ready identification, particularly from a distance or from the sides and rear of the subject).

• Description of any vehicles owned or used by subject, friends, relatives, and associates.

• Transportation habits and routes used.

• Hobbies.

• How does subject spend leisure time?

• Daily habits and routines.

• Work habits and schedule.

• Assessment of the probable degree of suspicion the subject may have toward being under investigation or surveillance.

• Personality.

• Motivation and ambition.

• Character.

• Arrest record and database checks.

• Travel history and currency of passports.

• Names, addresses, locations, and identities of associates and places frequented. An attempt should be made to fully identify all persons contacted by subject.

As investigators, we have been taught from the beginning that one of the most important aspects of an investigation usually is or can be the effective use of informants. It is no different in surveillance operations. As you can tell from what we have discussed here, preparation is certainly one of the key ingredients in a surveillance operation, and knowing how to adequately prepare for that  surveillance and then doing it will go a long way toward making your job both easier and more successful.


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Our Investigators Are No Models and look average helping them to mix in a crowd

Having a team of trained investigators available to conduct a surveillance operation is great, but in almost all of the surveillances we conduct, we are forced to use only one investigator, or sometimes two, to conduct surveillance. It is a simple matter of economics. There is no reason we cannot conduct a successful surveillance just because we have limited manpower. Although it does reduce our flexibility in many instances, most often it is still done successfully. As proof, we do it every day.

Foot and vehicle surveillance are the keys to many surveillance situations encountered. In almost every surveillance operation, even the sparsely manned ones, we will be required to conduct some type of foot and vehicle surveillance coverage or, at a minimum, be prepared to conduct each type of surveillance if it becomes necessary.
Although surveillance could be conducted by a single investigator, the success of this will depend solely on the ability of the investigator and often on good fortune. The distance between the subject and the investigator is usually either too great or too far, and the subject must be kept in view at all times by the single investigator, which increases the risk of being identified as surveillance. A one-person surveillance does not provide for any flexibility.

The subject study is especially important in one-person surveillance operations. Knowledge of what to expect from the subject (i.e. where he or she normally goes, does, etc.) will help decrease face time with the subject and allow the investigator to increase the distance between herself or himself and the subject. One-person surveillances are usually most effective in situations in which counter-surveillance or suspicion of surveillance by the subject is unlikely. Very often it is advantageous to conduct a fixed-point surveillance with one person because it will often attract less attention than two people. There are some obvious drawbacks, however, such as no relief, more demand on concentration and therefore fatigue of a single investigator, and single-witness problems should the subject be observed doing something illegal. We try to overcome that problem through the capturing of the subject on videotape.

The use of at least two investigators greatly increases the chances of success because the second agent does allow for some flexibility. With two investigators, the position of an investigator directly behind the subject in a moving surveillance can be changed as often as possible and allows for relatively close positioning of the investigator behind the subject. The use of two investigators affords greater security against detection and reduces the risk of losing the subject. In foot  surveillance, both investigators would normally be on the same side of the street as the subject, with the first being fairly close behind the subject. The second investigator is positioned behind the first with more distance between them. On streets that are not crowded, one investigator may walk on the opposite side of the street. Unfortunately, we are seldom afforded the luxury of a second investigator, and it is therefore extremely important that each investigator be the best investigator he or she possibly can be.


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Surveillance Requires Expertise

Surveillance does not mean that we just simply follow a subject. This is only one facet of surveillance activity. Surveillances should be conducted in a manner in which we try to make our subjects predictable, yet we avoid being predictable ourselves. Fortunately, subjects are human and therefore make mistakes on which we can (hopefully) capitalize.

In this section, let me discuss vulnerabilities, both ours and theirs. Although we may sometimes encounter counter-surveillance, many vulnerabilities are common to most surveillance operations and may be exploited to our advantage. We will look at the following areas related to surveillance vulnerabilities:

1. keys to detecting surveillance

2. surveillance dry cleaning

3. subject vulnerabilities

We will examine some of the areas that the opposition will focus on and review some of the possible ways we might be able to exploit the subject’s perception of our methods.

Keys to Detecting Surveillance

3 Times & You Are Burned

As a general rule of thumb, a lesson we have learned from international counterintelligence surveillances is that foreign intelligence officers marked a person as surveillance if they spotted the person (or vehicle) three times, separated by time and distance. This does not mean that they did not mark people as surveillance the first time they were spotted if they were careless and obviously conducting surveillance, but the third time spotted was an automatic mark. You can also assume that even in insurance, criminal, and fraud surveillances, if the subject spots you three or more times, you are probably burned. To help detect surveillance, the subjects “key” on several areas:

• Commonalities

A lesson we learn from counterintelligence surveillances is that subjects look for things that do not change. Examples could be an investigator who changes his jacket and pants but not his shoes or glasses. Each investigator should carry at least one complete change of clothing to reduce the things that are obvious and do not change. Always consider belt buckles, jewelry, and shoes. Make your change complete. Hats and glasses are an excellent addition that makes an investigator look completely different. If a claimant is getting used to the way you look, these items can give you a fresh look and make you unrecognizable to a subject.

• Uniforms

For some reason, if a group of investigators were gathered together and told to prepare for a surveillance operation tomorrow, the majority of them would report wearing the “uniform”: blue jeans and sneakers and if it was winter a flannel shirt and in summer a T-shirt with a logo emblazoned across the chest and a baseball cap. Surveillance does not mean dressing down. However, many of our subjects look for the “typical” surveillance uniform worn by investigators because they know this is how surveillance people dress. Common sense will tell you that subjects also know that we dress down for surveillance work, because they watch television and see the uniform. We can exploit this weakness by changing our uniforms and dressing appropriately for the environment and the subject. It is the responsibility of each investigator to decide what he or she will wear on any given day of a surveillance operation. Because subjects often travel through a variety of environments, the investigators will want to ensure that they are not always dressed the same but that a variety of dress styles or “classes” are represented so that they can move freely in those particular environments.

• Long Stays/Short Stays

The subject may stop in a building, movie theater, store, restaurant, and so on, where it is anticipated she or he will remain for a period of time. Investigators “collapse” around the building waiting for the subject to reappear. While everyone is waiting, investigators become bored, thirsty, and lonely, often moving, changing positions, and often “bunching up.” Investigators usually anticipate the subject will be making a long stay, and they will not be detected. Subjects often depart before the investigators think they will, and the investigators are caught off guard. The investigators scatter in an attempt to resume their positions.

• Vehicles

It is often hard to disguise cars. Make your surveillance ve hicles have a personality. Add car seats, trailer hitches, and bump er stickers. Keeping your surveillance vehicle ultra-clean and highly waxed or extremely dirty may draw more attention to it than if it has a normal amount of road dirt on it.

• Vehicle Usage

Remember, many of our subjects are involved in illegal activity; that is, they are defrauding the insurance company. As such, many of them are highly suspicious of surveillance, because they know it can cut off their supply of money from the insurance company. Subjects look for the investigator by looking for cars turning in behind them from the right. They will put themselves in your shoes and look for the most logical place for you to be. In vehicle surveillances, they expect you to make a right turn into traffic to follow them since this is easier for you to accomplish than to cross against traffic. Psychologists tell us that subjects will be more conscious of surveillance during the first 10 percent of their trip and the last 10 percent of their trip. In other words, the longer you can delay the pickup, the less likely you will be burned in surveillance.

• Highway Courtesy

If you drive with extreme courtesy during surveillance you will most likely be marked as surveillance. For example, if you are trying to keep a car between you and the subject, but traffic is light and you keep slowing down at highway entrance ramps to let cars pass and get in front of you, you call attention to yourself. So we must be natural and normal in driving, and in some cities, being courteous is not the norm for drivers.

• Peeking

Finally, you manage to get a vehicle in front of you, but it just happens to be a bus. You cannot see what your subject is doing or where he is going. So you ease out gently, just enough to peek around the bus at your subject. Once you are satisfied he or she is still in front, you ease back in behind the bus and breathe a sigh of relief. After a short distance, you become worried because you cannot see the subject and you peek again. Peeking will get your surveillance blown in a very short time. Some of the activities we spoke about before now can result in the inadvertent or accidental disclosure of the surveillance to the subject. However, there are subjects who will purposely act to try to identify surveillance following them.

Surveillance Dry Cleaning

Subjects may attempt to identify or shake surveillance when they begin movement. This activity is known as “dry cleaning.” We will touch more upon this in a later post. But I hope this post has enlightened you about the extraordinary skills of our ordinary sleuths!

Author Bio

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

Article edited and co-written by Atin Dasgupta who is the co-founder and marketing head of Alliance One. Read more about Atin here.

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