#6 Surveillance Training and Tips Series #3

Private Investigator Surveillance Training Series #3

I have been very eager to start the 3rd series of this surveillance blog.  Although I have lots of information to share, I will most likely not remember everything and there are many more hints and tips that I will pass along in addition to this. One of the most important things to remember in this industry is that there is always someone who knows more or has a different technique that works for them.  The tips I give you will work for everyone.  I have tested my techniques numerous times over the years with great success.

Many investigators don’t want a ticket for having their front windows tinted at 5%.  To avoid the ticket they will have their front side windows tinted at 15% which provides a decent amount of window coverage.  

Ideally I would suggest having all of your side windows and back window tinted with limo tint; I believe it is 5%.  If that is not feasible, you can cover your back windows with black construction paper or black thin foam that can be purchased from a craft or fabric store like Jo-Ann Fabrics.

Why Do Your Windows Need to be Tinted on Your Surveillance Vehicle?


#1.  Someone sitting in a car for a minimum of 8 hours in a neighborhood they do not belong in draws unwanted attention.  If that can not see someone in the vehicle, it may be less of a worry to neighbors.

#2. Any investigator needs to be capable of rolling video at a moments notice without having to worry about someone seeing them do it.   Tinted windows provide that privacy that investigators need.

#3.  The new investigator will love the security of tinted windows.  There are many neighborhood situations that will feel uncomfortable to any investigator.  Tinted windows help to make an investigator feel more secure.

ONE MORE THING: Buy a front window shade for you window.  I don’t care where you live, you will need your front window covered from time to time while rolling video so you are not discovered.



There are a variety things to consider when setting up your surveillance position.  I will start with a few basics and add some advanced tips as well.

A rule of thumb that I will try to stick with is parking at least 5 houses away from the residence you are watching.  This keeps you far enough away from the person you are watching that your vehicle is not noticeable when the person exits the residence.  You don’t want your vehicle to even exist in the mind of the person your watching.  This is especially helpful when the person leaves there home and you have to follow them.

If you are parked close enough to the residence you can watch the residence through your side or rear view mirror.

If you park too far from the residence you may want to face your vehicle towards the residence if possible make sure you don’t miss any activity.

If a surveillance position is not possible with a view of the residence, try to determine what route the majority of the neighbors are taking to leave the area.  The person you are watching will likely do the same.

(TIP) We are creatures of habit.  We take our kids to school, we go to work, we go to the gym, etc… If you figure out the routine of an individual, this will give you more surveillance position opportunities away from the residence if you can’t be close (for what ever reason).

Don’t start your vehicle unless you plan to either follow the person you are watching or you plan on explaining to a neighbor why your vehicle is running.  If it is cold you need to  bring a blanket.  If you have to start you vehicle, try to be far enough away that you presence in the area does not get back to the person you are watching.

What do you do if you need to park in an awkward position in a neighborhood?  My best advice would be to park in between homes.  Each neighbor will think that your car has something to do with their neighbor.  As long as you are not noticed within the vehicle you should be fine

Ideally you want to have the best view of the residence possible without compromising the investigation or surveillance.


  1. Use a tripod or mono pod when videotaping for insurance investigations.  The use of a tripod allows for steady long distance documentation.
  2.  Bring plenty of food and water.  You never know what you day will be like or how long it will last.
  3.  If you feel like a neighbor is calling the police on you, call the police and let them know you are out there. If you don’t call,  police may come to your vehicle and that is not the attention you want.
  4. Stay in your vehicle!  Some neighbors will get hostile that you are in the area.  You will find that people typically think the reason you are in the area has something to do with them.  On the same note, if the person you are watching catches on to you, stay in your vehicle and get out of the area.

Future topics to be covered are: Pretexting, Moving Automobile Surveillance techniques (Following someone), How I got started as a private investigator(My story), how to get into the private investigation industry,  how to start your own private investigation agency, and helpful iPhone apps for the investigator.


  1. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for setting up this website – very interesting.
    I’m new to this line of work.
    Could I ask a few questions?

    1. What kind of environments do you find the hardest and easiest to conduct surveillence in? I’m working in the UK. I’ve been working on rough council housing estates, victorian terraced streets and also middle class private housing estates. I haven’t done much rural work yet. Do you find the rural environment easier to conduct surveillence in?

    2. What kind of targets do you find hardest to trail? I’m finding that those who are unemployed can be quite time consuming. They don’t have a set pattern to their day and some don’t drive.

    3. Any tips on using vehicle tracking devices? I’m looking for one that I can leave for a few days and then look up on my laptop where the device has been. That way I can get an idea of an individual vehicle’s movement patterns, without having to spend long periods of time on surveillence.

    Your advice and opinions will be much appreciated,



    • Hi Karl,

      Great questions. Every environment has its own unique challenges. For a general rule of thumb I would say blend in to your area and don’t be seen. Don’t park in a location that would seem suspicious by anyone living in the area. If possible park far enough away (with a view of the residence) to where the person you are watching will not notice your vehicle upon exiting their residence. Streets with lots of vehicles on the street make it easier for you to blend into the neighborhood while there area some neighborhoods where no one parks on the street which can make you stick out like a sore thumb.

      When I work insurance cases I typically work an 8 hour day if they are home as I can not control how active they are. If it is domestic then a gps device on their vehicle might be the way to go. I don’t know the laws in the UK so please make sure to check the laws on the use of GPS devices.

      The people that I find the hardest to follow are the ones that are paranoid, or know they are being followed. Usually I have found in the past that individuals that are doing something wrong unrelated to the reason you are following them typically are able to pick up on a surveillance investigator. Some people are coached by attorneys (at least in the case of insurance cases) and warned that they may be investigated.

      The key to my success is the my preliminary investigation. Finding them on Facebook or Myspace, or in an article from a Google search. Knowing what they look like, finding out what they drive, if they have children they take to school, or any hobbies can all help you in your investigative efforts.

      A friend of mine uses a service through ecceed3.com however the website has changed to http://tracking.soniyatechnology.com/safone/login.jsp. I got to check this site out while a friend of mine was using his GPS. It was pretty neat. He actually received text messages each time the vehicle he was tracking moved.

      What type of cases are you conducting surveillance on?

      I hope this helps you Karl.

      Thanks for stopping by.


      • Hi Andrew,

        Thanks very much for your reply.
        I’ll check that website out.

        The cases I’m investigating are mostly false sickness claims and malingering. I’m working with a business partner. He finds the cases and does the online searches and I’m mostly doing the surveillence. We’re both new to this kind of work. We set up together after we were both made redundant at about the same time.

        I was in a TA (Army Reserve) infantry unit a few years back. So my partner figured I’d be better at the surveillence side of things. I had some experience of recce patrolling in a rural setting, but the urban environment is totally new to me.

        I’m finding that I’m spending a lot of time getting to learn photography skills and getting to know my camera. We haven’t got much money coming in from our cases yet, so we’re on a tight budget.

        The one thing I was worried about in a rural setting was dogs, but so far I haven’t done much rural work. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. Have you encountered many problems with dogs?

        I found this article on rural surveillence interesting:


        We are keeping our cases as local as possible. This is mainly because my business partner has lived in this area all his life – so he has some contacts in the community. It also saves us on fuel costs. However it does present other problems: It’s relatively easy for our targets to recognise me and also easier for them to hear via word of mouth what line of business I’m in.

        My initial plan was to hire vehicles with rear tinted windows and change the vehicles regularly. However, I’ve found it difficult to find local car hire firms who can guarantee vehicles with tinted windows. It’s not on their requirements list when requesting vehicles. It also raises suspicion amongst the hire firm staff, so we need to find a contact we can trust.

        Your video on window shades was useful. I may end up using those more and changing vehicles often.

        I think the current uk law allows covert vehicle trackers to be fitted, as they are not classed as ‘intrusive’ surveillence. However, if you go onto private property to fit the tracker, that is technically trespass. This is a civil matter, not a criminal offence. I’ll double check this though – thanks!

        I’ve seen ads online for metallic cases to enclose and protect your covert vehicle tracker. Have you found these useful?

        Good luck with your work. Thanks for the advice.


  2. Andrew, what advice do you have for long stakeouts in the car when it is 100+ degrees outside (Texas, Nevada,etc)? If one doesnt have the car running with the AC on and the tinted windows are closed or even slightly cracked, suffocation or heat exhaustion could occur. Thanks for any tips!

    • Summer is here, no doubt about that and there is nothing but your A/C that is going to make things bearable in 100 degree weather. So because I recommend running your vehicle you need to make adjustments to how you conduct surveillance. Every situation and set up is different but if you set up far enough away, you will only need to pretext neighbors as to the reason for your presence in the neighborhood. I would just be far enough away from your subject’s residence so that if police come an check on you, your subject can not see what is happening. Be safe out there.


  3. Thanks! I am enrolling in PI school this August which is the only school that will allow me to sit for the state license exam. I live in Texas where the average temp is 100 degrees and wondered about how PIs handle the climate for several hours in the car. I am doing a complete 180 career shift after working the rat race in corporate 12 years. I am hoping that my state license and corporate experience will help me land an entry level job with a firm. I hope to someday open my own private business after years of experience. I am lucky to have a supportive wife who makes good money while I go through the challenging transition! I will continue to read your blog as I find it very interesting!

    • I know what you mean with Texas temperatures. I lived in Texas for about 3 1/2 years while in the Army at Fort Hood. I was actually just there a couple of months ago floating the river with some old Army buddies. As for a supportive wife, you must have one to succeed in this business. It will be a culture shock for her in many ways (and for you too).

  4. Hello,

    I have been working as a PI for about a year now and one area I struggle in is with pretext with neighbors to identify the subject. Can you offer any tips you have gained from your experience to interact with the surrounding neighbors to gain useful information about the subject?


    • I have many ways to help you confirm you subject home through neighbors but I can not do the topic justice in a reply. I will write about this topic and likely talk about it in an up coming podcast. I think the things I do will come in handy.

      Stay tuned.

  5. Hi Andrew,

    I’m looking for advice about tracking down people via family members. If it’s necessary to contact the persons family or past aquaintances, how would you do so, what would you say to learn info of their whereabouts while still protecting the identity of your client?

    Thank you!

  6. Hi Andrew,

    I am a field investigator at a country in Southeast Asian and I am working on surveillance on my motorbike due to that is the main transportation. We found difficulties about the vehicle transportation because we didn’t know if subject has a car or a motorbike. For us, car or motorbike has disadvantages and advantages but if you have any ideas about surveillance on motorbike, please share or advise :).

    Thanks much,

    • That is pretty tough. A lot would have to do with the objective of the surveillance. Why are you following the individual?

  7. Been a Private Investigator in Australia for many years, I find it hard to find text about topic to do within the investigation field. PI is not as big as it is in the USA, Any ideas where I can get texs books, DVD’s about this. I have been in contact with a few PI schools in the USA they will not sell you the text alone they want you to do the course, Please help.