Conducting Surveillance on Someone That Knows you are Following Them-#128

There have been few times in my surveillance career that I have followed someone even though they knew they were being followed.  Today I will share a couple of stories with you.  This is probably something you probably didn’t expect to hear from me and I preach and teach that there is no value from following someone that knows they are being followed.   And I continue to stand by that belief but I will share some situations where I have continued to work a surveillance despite believing that the person I was following was on to me.

Private Investigator Surveillance

#1.  First surveillance story where I followed someone that knew he was being followed

When I was a young investigator (not in age, just in experience) I naturally followed the lead of experienced investigators.  And I remember a time where I was working with another investigator on a surveillance.  I believe it was a two investigator surveillance because the individual had burned (caught investigators previous) other investigators during a previous surveillance.

I believed during the surveillance that the individual we were following was on to the both of us during the surveillance.  I specifically remember him parking at a park with a passenger in his vehicle and frequently looking at my vehicle.  And though I strongly believed he was aware of my presence he never made any obvious gestures to me or the other investigator that he knew we were there (erratic driving, typical driving movements relating to being aware, or making hand gestures know the one I mean) to make the both of us discontinue the surveillance.  So we didn’t stop the surveillance.  We continued following him until he went home and the work day was over.

I worked 8 hours and had over an hour of video to show for that day.

Why did I continue to work the file even though we were technically burned?

In this particular case we were not going to break off the surveillance until he provided undeniable proof that he knew he was being watched. Frankly at that time I was following the lead of the more experienced investigator and we were trying to get our 8 hours for that day.  We were trying to earn a living and we weren’t going to break off unless the individual gave us a reason to.

Private Investigator Surveillance Vehicle

#2.  A second surveillance story when the individual knew he was being followed

I remember getting a call to work surveillance either for 2 weeks or a month.  It has been a while so the duration of the surveillance is a bit foggy in my memory.  The reason I was called was because two investigators got burned on a surveillance within a couple days of following an individual.  The company who hired me didn’t have high expectations and assumed I wouldn’t last that long because of the nature of the case.   I was paired up with another company of investigators that I knew very well so I felt right at home.  I was to work 12 hour shifts and I was not to break off even if I lost the individual.  The individual had threatened individuals with a weapon and we were to follow the person wherever they went to make sure the individual did not travel to the homes of the specific people he threatened.

Within a couple of days I could tell the individual I was watching was aware that I was following him.  I hadn’t done anything wrong, the individual was hyper aware of his surroundings because of the previous investigators being caught.  When I switched off with the other investigator so he could work the night shift he didn’t believe that the surveillance was compromised.  He didn’t have much activity on the night shift to come to the conclusion I had come to when working during the day. I also contacted our client and informed him the surveillance compromised but the client didn’t care.

A day or two later the night shift investigator confirmed that I was correct with my beliefs that the individual was aware that he was being followed.  The following morning he told me of the specific incident that he observed that confirmed my suspicions for him.

Despite the individual being aware of our presence we continued to work the file from a distance until the client was sure that the individual would not come after specific individuals.

I have not worked a file like this again and I don’t know that I would work it again as there was a specific amount of danger involved and an assignment like this could go very wrong for an investigator.

Why did I continue to work the file despite the individual being aware?

This file turned out to be more like a security/notify police surveillance and the rules of breaking off a surveillance when compromised went out the window. As long as the individual didn’t come after us aggressively we continued to follow from a distance to make sure the individual wasn’t headed to the home of anyone he had threatened.

If the police were called on me (they never were called) I would explain why I was following him and I am sure they would have left me alone or at the very least I wouldn’t have been in any trouble.  There is more to the story on this assignment but I will have save that story for another day and another topic.

Surveillance Story

#3. Conducting surveillance until you know you are burned.

One big thing that many investigators do is stop working a surveillance prematurely because they think they have been caught.  When in reality they might not be caught.

A series of events might take place that make the investigator believe they have been caught.  ‘

The individual they are following might start waving in your direction.  What you didn’t notice is they were waving at friends that are behind you.  You might panic and break off the file before making sure that wave was for you.

The individual they are following might make multiple U-turns in a short amount of time. This might make you think you are burned and you then break off.  What you didn’t realize because you broke off too soon was that the individual was lost and was looking for an address.

The individual they are following might pull over briefly on the road forcing you to pass them. Once you pass them they pull back onto the road and appear to be following you. You feel as though you are burned and make efforts to lose the individual and lose them.

Each of the above scenarios will happen and are signs of an investigator being burned.   One of these incidents happening alone does not make you burned and in fact your fears and paranoia will make you feel as though you are when it just might be a coincidence.   It is just one sign that you might be burned. It is a red flag.  If more than one red flag event is observed then you might very well be burned.

If I broke off every time my fear or paranoia kicked in because the individual did something I thought was strange I would never get an 8 hour day during a surveillance.  I wait until I am certain that I am burned before breaking off any assignment.


In the cases where the individual knows I am following them but doesn’t give a reaction, I will continue to follow them and then let the client know my beliefs. Regardless of what the client wants to do with the surveillance file I am very cautious for my safety going forward on that file.

Even though I made a ton of money on that security type surveillance file I don’t think it is the type of file I would work again just out of safety concerns.

I think it is important that before I break off a surveillance I be sure that I am actually burned.  If I get signs that I am possibly burned I become more cautious. I can’t tell you how many times where I think there is a possibility that I am burned to find out that I wasn’t burned at all and I was just paranoid.

You will have make you own decisions on files.  I would recommend discontinuing a surveillance once you know you are burned.  The security type surveillance in story number 2 was a special circumstance and I have never worked another file in that manner since that assignment.

If you have any questions about these stories feel free to comment below.