Show all

Planning Surveillance: A Brief Guide

Only by reference to what is known can one make sense of the unknown.

– Lachlan Jarvis, director of Lyonswood Investigations

When a client approaches a private investigator to conduct a period of surveillance, it’s not like hiring a plumber, getting a car serviced or having an accountant do your tax return. It is something the client will probably never have done before and may never do again so there is a level of uncertainty about how the process works.

Having performed thousands of field operations over our 37 year history, including for law firms, government agencies, high-profile individuals, insurers, multinationals and others, we know that planning surveillance is imperative. In any investigation, you’re ultimately dealing with the unknown so it’s important to be clear and transparent about what is known, what is suspected and what is not known at the outset. Only by reference to what is known can one make sense of the unknown.

Some clients will be hesitant about providing confidential details to an investigator but without the full known actual details, the investigation will almost certainly be unsuccessful. Sometimes, because of a client’s lack of communication skills of their unwillingness to provide full disclosure, we feel as though we want to solve the case more than them! Do your research first, before contacting an investigator, so you can feel comfortable with your service provider and give him or her all the relevant information.

Logistical considerations, for example, will have an impact on how the investigation should be managed. Consider an apartment block. We have conducted surveillance at apartment blocks with over 5 entry and exit points. When there is no line of sight between exits at such a location, to do the job properly, it is necessary to engage at least 5 surveillance operatives. This is different from a suburban, detached house on a quarter-acre block where 1 or 2 operatives can sometimes observe and follow a person coming and going from the subject property with ease. But even in the cases of suburban properties, there may be complicating logistical factors to take into account such as a unsuitable terrain, no-standing zones, warn neighbours, etc.

Furthermore, the ease with which we can identify any subject persons involved in the investigation will impact the plan. If we have limited details for persons of interest, it will be hard to identify them and document them during surveillance. If we have detailed information for the subject persons and any subjects are distinctive then this will probably make our job easier. Did you know that people are generally poor at identifying faces of strangers?

Given that we have a reputation as an industry leader to protect, we must seek details to be able to plan properly. Without any details, we must decline to plan and quote as to do so would detract from our professionalism.

As to any concerns client have about confidentiality, they should take the time to peruse our website which contains a great deal of information about us. Clients should also run the name Lyonswood Investigations in Google so they can ensure there is no adverse media coverage.

Now, we do not necessarily expect a client will have all the requested details – we simply seek the details they do have. The more information a client provides, the more suited the plan, the more accurate the quote and the higher the likelihood of a positive outcome in your investigation.