How Much Does a Surveillance Investigator Deal With People? #138

I received an email from a reader and among the many questions that the reader asked me one question caught my attention.

The reader stated:

…I have looked into being a Private Investigator before, but the idea of having to interview strangers all day turned me off. Aside from that, covert surveillance sounds like something I could be fairly good at and actually sounds like something I would enjoy.

How much of the job is involved in dealing with strangers? From my understanding you are geared towards the surveillance field, so how much of your time is dealing with strangers? I don’t think I would have an issue with doing it every now and then, but every day? Nosey neighbors and pretexting I can understand…

I think the core of the question is how much interaction is there with others while in the role of a private investigator?  It is a good question if there is concern or anxiety about interacting with others.

How much interaction with others is involved in being a surveillance investigator?

A surveillance investigator has many interactions and conversations with others. Here are some reasons a surveillance investigator would need to talk to others:

#1.  Canvassing a neighborhood for information on your subject with a pretext

Many times clients ask that investigators pretext neighbors to find out information on the subject you are conducting surveillance on.  This might take place while you’re on surveillance or you might be asked to just go to a neighborhood to gain more information.

In my opinion this is actually a very challenging part of the job. Even after doing this for 13 plus years there can still be anxiety in lying to people to try to learn information about someone.

#2.  Discussing cases with clients or your supervisor

Some clients and supervisors are very hands on when it comes to monitoring surveillance cases.  I am not a big fan on hands on clients or supervisors as I feel as though it is hindrance and makes an investigator second guess decisions.  But regardless of how I feel about supervisors and clients being too involved, it happens.



Neighbors wondering what you are doing

#3.  Speaking with neighbors who confront you

Some neighbors are nice and understanding and some neighbors are like me and don’t want to hear some story as to why you are parked in their neighborhood.  They will try to intimidate you and will call the police on you to confirm your story (if you told one).

Phone pretext

#4.  Pretexting individuals on the phone

It is not uncommon to have to pretext during phone calls to determine where someone is living or to find out information that is legal to obtain during a pretext. This too can be very challenging and uncomfortable but it is necessary.


#5.  In person pretexting to the individual you are conducting surveillance on 

There will be times where you need to speak with the individual you are conducting surveillance on.  Most times it is just to confirm who they are but it can get tricky and it can be uncomfortable.

Final Thoughts

To be completely honest I wouldn’t mind working in a bubble and not having to interact with anyone while working as a private investigator.  Unfortunately interacting with people will always be part of this job in one way or another.

I remember being nervous and unsure of myself early on in my career whether it be during a surveillance or when I started doing fieldwork and interviewing people.  Overtime this part of the job becomes more comfortable and you as an investigator become more confident.  When you are confident and comfortable things that would normally shake someone won’t affect you.

You also don’t want to be a one dimensional investigator.  If a private investigator is a one trick pony (only doing one thing) it really limits the work load they will have when times are traditionally slow.

It’s good to get out of your comfort zone because it will help you grow in the occupation and as a person.  It is something I have keep reminding myself as well.