From the Investigator: The Seasonal Affect – Samantha

The Seasonal Affect

Investigator Samantha Castillo has been through all of the surveillance conditions that Michigan has to offer. The season that she has the most fun with outside of work is Fall; Halloween and cider mills are her thing!  Apart from being in love with being a new Auntie and a dog mom, Samantha also enjoys live music on the regular at all of the local Detroit theatres. This series aims to address the different work conditions that investigators run into throughout the year. Every day is different out in the field, and we all handle it in our own way! Let’s get to know how our first interviewee, Samantha, tackles this Michigan terrain!

Michigan surveillance is full of challenges. How do the climate and state conditions prepare an investigator for work adversity?

One of the things that remind me of how differential our work conditions are is the fact that every day I have to check the internet for what the weather conditions were while I was in the field. We can go a whole week with different conditions every day, or multiple conditions in one day! I never assume that the weather will remain constant and predictable. That being said, small things like the amount of gas you have in your tank, keeping up on oil changes, having healthy tires, etc. are even more important when you live and work in Michigan. There are some road conditions that can greatly impact surveillance, such as potholes and flooding. These conditions require knowledge of the local terrain, as many locals will avoid high risk areas and mobile surveillance is impacted by this. With all of these odds against us, we are forced to take extreme care because of the risks and also due to the price of insuring our surveillance vehicles.

What is your favorite season to do surveillance in?

My personal favorite parts of the year are the late-Fall and early-Spring. They are my favorite because of the temperature and overhead conditions. I really enjoy days where I do not have to heat or cool my vehicle, saving on gas. There are a lot of cloudy days during these times too, which does not allow the inside of my vehicle to superheat and taking video is much clearer without the blare of sun rays. These times of the year are also leading into and coming out of periods where people are not outside as much, making neighborhood suspicion less likely. Also, there is not a crazy amount of snow during these times! Snow is awful in Michigan because it slows our commute times and makes mobile surveillance more dangerous. Also, I’m just not a fan of super-hot days, they make me thirsty and as you can imagine finding a place to use the restroom is not easy sometimes when you are a female!

How does your routine change with the seasons?

There are several things that I make sure to hit on when the seasons are changing. In the Winter, I have to make sure I am washing my vehicle often due to the mud and salt residue blocking my view. I always keep a full tank of gas in cold weather. In Spring, the warm weather props that I use such as sandals, shorts, and sunglasses are always within reach. In the Summer, I am making sure to get almost monthly oil changes and keeping spare water bottles just in case I find myself overheating. In the Fall, I am getting new tires and preparing my Chevrolet SUV for Winter. I do not change vehicles in between the seasons; my small SUV fits in year-round in most scenarios. My greatest changes come with how I setup for surveillance. In colder weather I find that I can park closer to my subject’s residence, and when it is warm I have to stay back a generous distance. You also have to be cognizant of the schedules of school children between early fall and early summer. Where there are children, there are alert adults!

Are there any cases that you know would have only been possible to accomplish in fair weather?

This being Michigan, there are many people that have a summer routine that they follow religiously. One of the great things about that is that we can pinpoint what that routine is from social media, surveillance or drop cam. A common scenario that we run into is that of the “second home camper”. We will follow a subject to their preferred campground from their main residence and this “home away from home” is a place that they think they are safe from observance. While they are at these places they can be observed swimming, fishing, going on nature walks, pitching tents, chopping wood, building fires, etc. These situations are a gold mine!

How do you prepare mentally and physically for the vast changes in schedule that come with surveillance?

I find that one of the best ways to deal with the mental and physical strain is to get enough sleep. Yes, our hours can be vastly different day to day, but if you set a hard rule for the amount of sleep you have to get, it helps. The surveillance lifestyle can sneak up on you if you don’t stay aware of yourself. For example, poor dietary habits can evolve and before you know it and you can find yourself feeling sluggish and not letting your brain get the nourishment that it needs. Your responsiveness in the field is what can make or break a case. Not letting yourself get burned out is on you, and working for a company that understands that is key!