#77: What Belongs in a Surveillance Report? P.I. Advice Podcast #33

Report writing is an extremely important part of documenting any investigation.  Investigative reports detail the information you have gathered during an investigation in an organized manner.  An investigative report breaks down your diligence, efforts and in many cases allows you to point out to your client how well worth the investigation was.

Some investigative reports will need more detail than other reports depending upon the investigation and your client’s expectations.  An insurance investigation will require quite  a bit of detail in regards to the movements of the subject and the locations they travel to while a cheating spouse investigation might be only concerned with the destinations and the individuals the cheating spouse interacts with.

In this article I am going to share the typical format of a surveillance investigation report as this has been requested many times by readers.  I will be sharing the general format of what my reports and the reports of other companies typically look like (or at least the information provided within them).  Use this format as a base for your investigations.  You can add or take away parts to fit your needs.

Below is a list which I have placed in a generalized order for a typical surveillance report.  In the Private Investigator Advice Podcast Episode 33 I discuss this topic as well.

Report Cover (A cover that protects the report from prying eyes)

Cover Letter (A brief letter message to your client)

Case Information:

  • Client
  • Requester
  • Billing Address (Where your invoice is going)
  • Date ordered (Date the assignment was given to you)
  • Case # (your case #)
  • Investigator (Investigator or investigators who worked the case)

Subject Information

  • Name
  • Alias  (Another name used or the individual goes by)
  • Provided Address (Address provided the client)
  • Located Address (New address developed)
  • Provided Phone Numbers (Identify Land Line or Cellular)
  • Located Phone Numbers (Identify Land Line or Cellular)
  • Gender
  • Marital Status (Married, Single, Divorced)
  • Race (Hispanic, Caucasian, Asian)
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Build (heavy, medium, slim)
  • SSN
  • DOB (Date of Birth)
  • Vehicles (provided vehicles or located vehicles; may include who vehicles are registered to.
  • Additional Information (Might be something you identified or that the client shared)
  • Directions to Subject’s residence

Injury Information (or other pertinent information)

  • Date of Loss (Date the individual was injured)
  • Occupation (Job title)
  • Injury (How was the individual hurt, what was hurt)

Assignment Objective

What was the objective of the assignment?

Example: To document the subject’s activities over 3 days to include 1 weekend.

Preliminary Investigation

  • Address History (using TLO or IRB)
  • Social Media Search (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter….)
  • Court Records (divorce, speeding tickets, assaults, anything really)
  • Possible Criminal Record – (Usually get an idea of this through Court Records)
  • Any other internet research (Deep Internet Search) (add Screen shots if possible)
  • Vehicle Information (vehicles identified as being related to the subject)
  • Business Licenses (Business licenses past or present)

Summary of Surveillance Dates

  • Date #1
  • Date #2
  • Date #3

Investigation Report

  • Detail times of all surveillance time shots and activity.
  • Enter pictures in entries where activity is documented.

Recommendations (this is not always wanted)

Closing – We have closed the file.  If you need anything else be sure…..

It is my hope that this outline sheds some light on what should be included in an investigative report.  Reports are not rocket science and you shouldn’t be overwhelmed with what should be included in them.

You can use this format as a template to expand upon or shrink down depending on your assignment.

Below is the link to a Surveillance Report Template, Surveillance Report Example and a Video Walkthrough of the template that describes what each section is for and how to make changes to photos within your surveillance report. If your conducting surveillance or plan on it, you will need a surveillance report template to work with.


  1. Hi I am doing a investigators course and I have a client form, and I have all information about client, and after client file number it has Summary of Request, does this involve just the questions I would ask client? Please explain Summary of Request please.
    Thanks so much, hope to hear from you.

    • Hi Lyn,

      Is the course not supported for students? It could just be a summary of what the client would like you to do. I would just make sure that the objectives from the client are clearly defined in your client’s request.

      Hope this helps.