I’ve always thought of surveillance as an art, not a science. An investigator’s ability to make split second decisions, understand tradecraft, and master the intricacies of the pursuit can make or break a surveillance case. A talented surveillance investigator is truly an artist. But, in an era when technology is becoming more of a factor in the surveillance field, the investigator isn’t the only element working toward a successful case.
As a business owner, I’m always working hard to find and retain talented investigators and to ensure my work product doesn’t suffer with every change in personnel. I want every surveillance case to be a success. I expect to obtain quality footage on each target, regardless of whether the investigator is new to the field or has years of experience.
So the question is, “What can I do to ensure optimal outcomes in each case, regardless of which investigator takes the lead?”
I’d argue that if we stack the deck with legal technology, we can increase the likelihood of a positive outcome in surveillance cases. In my company, we’ve tried to accomplish this by integrating real-time technical video surveillance with our surveillance teams.
In other words, we let the technology do the hard work by sweating it out in the back of a vehicle in a sometimes dangerous location, while the investigative team sat comfortably off the “X,” ready to go mobile in a “clean” vehicle. We wanted to test the performance of this model, compare it to the norm, and then, if it proved successful, make it available to the PI and law enforcement communities.
The results were great. We obtained claimant footage on 90% of our cases annually. We routinely established static surveillance positions that competitors using the standard model couldn’t, and we were able to obtain video when others did not.
As we sought to replicate the model for clients, we quickly realized that our team model wouldn’t fit in an industry where solo was the norm. So we went back to the drawing board.
In 2014, we began testing some covert rapid deployment systems that still maintained real-time streaming but could be deployed and used by a single surveillance investigator. We integrated it into our internal operations, and the results have been outstanding.
In 2014, we jumped from 90% video obtained to 100%. Our average video of the claimant jumped to 27 minutes for an average 2.5 days of surveillance per case. This was all accomplished by investigators who have worked in the surveillance field for less than 3 years. They didn’t use GPS, never trespassed, and rarely had to sweat it out in the back of a van. They just used covert video and real-time streams to force multiply and increase the covert nature of the surveillance.
The point I’m making is that remote surveillance technology can certainly increase the positive outcome of your case. It can increase predictability of success and give a junior investigator an edge to help them get the goods like a seasoned pro. That aids in business continuity, performance predictability, and client satisfaction.
About the author:
Zach Grove is a former CIA Operations Officer and the founder of Armada Global. Zach is a pioneer in building real-time technical surveillance platforms and integrating them with traditional surveillance capabilities. Zach has provided surveillance briefings & consulting to some of the largest insurers and private investigation firms in the U.S.