I have probably mentioned either on the podcast, in my videos or in the blog that I am a front seat surveillance investigator (the majority of the time). There are several reasons why I became a front seat investigator but I will talk about that as I provide the pros and cons of each. I will say that I began my career sitting in the back seat of my Honda Civic when conducting surveillance. I only had the back three windows tinted which helped contribute to the reason I sat in the back seat. The back seat helped and hurt my surveillance cases just like the front seat did. Let’s get into the pros and cons of each.
Pros and cons of using the back seat of your vehicle during surveillance
• In a tinted vehicle the back seat area is extremely dark. The investigator can obtain video through the front window without easily being seen.
• People will believe the vehicle is empty when looking through the front window (you might have to duck down a bit). When this happens neighbors are less likely to be concerned about your vehicle. SUV’s and mini vans are likely to work best when trying to conceal oneself.
• The back seat may be less comfortable. The larger the investigator the less comfortable it will likely be.
• The back seat of a small surveillance vehicle may be less effective when wanting to make the vehicle appear empty.
• Transitioning from the back of the vehicle to the front of the vehicle can be a daunting task when you need to follow a subject quickly. It always seems much easier to move to the back of the vehicle than to return to the front.
• If observed by your subject or neighbors when sitting in the back seat, it may be more difficult to justify your behavior.
Pros and Cons of sitting in the front seat of your vehicle.
• You are able to follow a subject at a moment’s notice.
• Pretexting or justifying your presence in a neighborhood is much more natural.
• There is typically much more leg room in the front seat which will be important for long days in your vehicle (which should be everyday).
• Sitting in the front seat may require you to use a window covering/shade. This can look very suspicious to neighbors.
• Neighbors can identify you in the vehicle if you don’t use a window shade.
• The closer you are to your front windows (assuming all windows are tinted except for the front window) the more likely your silhouette will be visible to someone attempting to look in your vehicle.
• It becomes more difficult if you have 15% tint or no tint at all on your driver and passenger windows. Many investigators don’t risk driver and passenger window tint because their state enforces their laws on tinted windows.
How I became a front seat surveillance investigator.
As previously stated I began my surveillance career at about 210 pounds 1 ½ years after getting out of the Army. I was in fairly decent shape at the time. Only in ideal situations did I sit in my front seat. Because I didn’t have tint on my front driver and passenger windows I typically was confronted by neighbors when I decided to sit in my front seat.
What I found is though the Honda Civic was a great surveillance vehicle that allowed me to blend into any neighborhood, I was literally growing out of the vehicle. Jumping front the back seat to the front seat became more difficult. My shoe string would get caught on something or I would get a cramp in my leg and then as a result I would not be able to jump to my front seat in a timely manner. And because of not being able to transition fast enough my subject would get to great a lead and I would lose them during mobile surveillance. The next thing I knew I was 240 pounds and a back seat position just was not an option for me anymore (at least not in the Honda Civic).
I saw many other investigators that were in much better shape lose too many claimants/subjects because they could not transition to the front seat fast enough.
After selling my Honda I began using a mid size SUV to conduct my surveillance. I had all the windows tinted with limo tint (5%). I began sitting in the front seat feeling confident that I was not being noticed in my vehicle. Following people became less of a chore because I was not fumbling around. I just started my vehicle and was on my way. I do notice that if I don’t use my window covering (which is hard to do sometimes) that it can affect my investigation in a negative way on occasion.
Inevitably it is your choice as to what type of position works for you within your car. I would pay special attention as to how many subjects you lose as a result of not being able to transition fast enough to the front seat. You may be doing your company and yourself a disservice. Where you establish a stationary surveillance position and the type of neighborhood you are in will all play a part in the success of a front surveillance position or a rear surveillance position.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this and I hope this helps you in your surveillance efforts. Be sure to say hi on the Facebook page.