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Last Month in Surveillance

April 16th, 2019

March was one of those fun months regarding surveillance.  We had quite a few really nice (50+ degree) days sandwiched between small stretches of garbage weather, causing flurries of claimant activity!!  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one that was itching to make the most of those breaks in the weather!  The war stories continue…

One case, very close to home for me, made it pretty easy to keep a close on this guy.  Fortunately for him, his injuries were not in question.  As a matter of fact, they were described as “an absolute awful situation” by our client.  Unfortunately for him, his claims to the physical restrictions and the ability to no longer carry on a normal way of life, were very much in question.  Many days of surveillance were conducted on this claimant; stationary and manned surveillance.  Most days yielded plenty of subject activity…and most of which yielding very damning evidence against both his physical restrictions and normal functionality claims.  The claimant was able to drive almost every day.  This was an activity in question.  Not only was driving not an issue, but it was later proven that he was, in fact, driving young children to school, among other destinations!  If this wasn’t quite enough to disprove his claims, or at the very least create a strong argument, we watched a bit closer.  Lo and behold, driving was just the tip of the symbolic iceberg, making our client’s argument concrete against his claims.  The claimant was found to not only split wood, utilizing a large gas driven log splitter, but he then made it a routine to collect the fallen pieces of apparent firewood and stack it.  After stacking firewood, the claimant would wrap small bundles in plastic and load them into the rear of his pickup truck.  He would then drive around and deliver his product to gas stations along the M-59 corridor.  A nice little business for a man with no ability to function normally…but I digress…

Up north Michigan is a great place to visit; however, not always the most fun to conduct surveillance; however, Tawas, MI was very favorable in this one!  Injuries to this claimant, to include driving anxiety, did not keep him from working with the tree service company, but it did keep him from driving company vehicles.  Well, under his own admission anyways…  We were informed that the claimant still continued to work, but now just as a brush pick-up man and other types of minor clean-up labor.  The first morning the claimant was driven to meet a fellow employee, things looked grim.  He rode as a passenger to a collection area of tree service trucks at a local gas station.  No surprises…yet…  The claimant then jumped into a large truck, hauling a trailer and piece of heavy equipment, and drove he and another employee to a job site!!  What a turn of events!  Now, if that wasn’t enough, the claimant was observed on site for hours as he conducted brush pick-up, along with conducting tool maintenance, assisting in anchoring the piece of heavy equipment and hauled large branches and logs across neighboring lawns.  Needless to say, further surveillance did not seem necessary to this client…

One more “quickie”, this one from the center of the mitten.  Multiple injuries to this claimant had kept her from going back to work.  Okay, this one actually was an ongoing surveillance (or case re-open) of the same surveillance file conducted in February; however, the shenanigans continued!  She made all of her scheduled medical appointments last month.  Good for her!  Well, good for us too as it made establishing surveillance a bit easier.  Yep, she showed to all of her appointments, driven to each by a friend or family member because driving was “just too difficult.”  I think she meant driving was just too difficult on her days of scheduled appoints because she was found driving, dining out, shopping and maneuvering in a normal fashion on ALL subsequent days of surveillance.  That may be a pretty tough “good days/bad days” defense…

March picked up right where February left off, right where January left off…anyone see a pattern here in regard to insurance scam/fraud???

Until next month….

Sherlock Investigations: Tricks of the Surveillance Trade – Sean

April 11th, 2019

Surveillance investigators have tricks up their sleeve to get the job done

Sherlock Investigation’s Tricks of the Surveillance Trade

Investigator Sean Taig is back with more insight! Sean has been with Sherlock Investigations since Spring 2018. He recently supported local law enforcement and raised money for the Special Olympics by participating in our 2019 Polar Plunge! A fun fact about Sean, he hunted his first (and only, so far) deer back in 2011 at the age of 15 – a four-year-old doe that weighed a little over 200lbs and was delicious!  This series is facilitated to give the reader a taste of the field investigator’s daily surveillance routine. Let’s get to know our second interviewee, Sean, a little better!

How do you begin your workday?

I generally will start my workday by looking over all the surveillance documents that I have been provided with, again. Having already reviewed it prior, this go around acts as a kind of refresher. I always double check my equipment to make sure it is fully charged and in working condition. Once I head out, I always stop at the gas station and fill my gas tank because you never know where a day of surveillance will take you. The last thing you want is to have to end a good day of surveillance because you run out of gas!

What does your surveillance setup consist of?

My surveillance setup is quite simple. I drive an SUV while on surveillance for two reasons. First being, it’s my only vehicle! And second, it’s just perfect honestly. Smaller SUVs offer similar mobility that a car would give, while having a slightly bigger back seat and the interior trunk space. This is handy especially if you have tinted windows, you can almost park wherever you want and so long as you turn off your vehicle – you can hang out in your back seat and no one will even see you! Personally though, I prefer to stay in my front seat. On the off chance you do get caught in your back seat – that can make for an awkward conversation.

Do you have a go to persona or cover that you use in the field when on surveillance?

Being a male, it can be difficult to change up your appearance. Wigs aren’t as effective for men as they can be for women! I am kind of a minimalist in this sense. I have been lucky enough to not have to drastically change my appearance. There have been instances where I have changed clothes such as a shirt, coat, or even changing hats. Other times during mobile surveillance it can be good to help change the appearance of your vehicle by alternating the illumination of your vehicle’s lights, putting a rag, book, or hat in your windshield, you can also hang things from your rear-view mirror, or even use your sun visors to your advantage. Many things can be done to switch up your appearance; you just have to find what works for you!

Why is a company full of unique investigators beneficial for a diverse case load?

Being an investigator is all about fitting into your surroundings. Given the area we operate, it is very important that we have a unique group of investigators. Not only ethnically but also in terms of skills, hobbies, and interests. South-eastern Michigan is one of the most culturally diverse places in the Midwest, so having investigators that we can “plug and play” into different cases can be very beneficial for individual success on each case. For example, if we have a claimant that we KNOW is a boating/fishing aficionado, we have an individual who would say the same, and has a boat. We then would be able to follow the claimant onto a lake and continue to collect video footage, instead of being stuck on shore.

How do you keep yourself at an advantage in this line of work?

In this field we rely quite a bit on technology to do our jobs. Whether it is the method of case delivery or the tools we use to collect our evidence. As a team we are constantly searching for new and improved ways to help streamline our process and improve quality. By doing so, we often come across tips and tricks to help us in the field. It can be something as simple as a specific camera setting to a new or better software program. At the end of the day, doing your own research is always the best way to stay one step ahead of the competition.

Sherlock Investigations: Tricks of the Surveillance Trade – Brian

April 4th, 2019

Sherlock Investigation’s Tricks of the Surveillance Trade

Brian Coykendall has been with Sherlock Investigations for over ten years. He professes that he loves his job as much now as he did as a new surveillance investigator! As a former Marine and previous criminal justice study, he has been able to transition those skills of paying attention to detail and remaining alert, to the field of insurance investigations.  On days that don’t require his head be on a swivel, Brian enjoys light exercise, playing softball, mountain biking, hiking, hunting and fishing. This series is facilitated to give the reader a taste of the field investigator’s daily surveillance routine. Let’s get to know our first interviewee, Brian, a little more!

How do you begin your workday?

I feel that any surveillance file, even with all the help of pre-surveillance work-ups from our team of data collection experts and our expert scheduling guru, still requires a fair amount of intel collection before conducting any field work.  Downloading and familiarizing myself with all the pertinent correspondence regarding the surveillance file is absolutely necessary.  After that, a mapping website of the subject’s home, schedule appointment location and workplace (if applicable) is reviewed and studied to help identify decent setup locations and prescribed routes of egress. One last thing before going to bed the night prior, I will visit my Accuweather application on my phone to help determine if my initial plan of action will be affected by any extreme or ongoing deteriorating, weather conditions.

What does your surveillance setup consist of?

My typical surveillance setup is made up of what I like to call “my rolling office.”  I utilize a 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan, usually with the middle seats out for a lot of wiggle room when needing to “hide” while posted up in a great vantage position.  The tinted windows allow for me to move around in the rear of my van without giving away that I’m present inside. I have the ability to carry just about any equipment that I deem necessary for the objectives that I’m challenged with on that particular day of investigative work.  A large tripod can be setup inside with no acknowledgment by any outside person. I’m also afforded the opportunity of blending in with the “soccer Dad” presentation, giving very little suspicion to my vehicle of choice.

Do you have a go to persona or cover that you use in the field when on surveillance?

One general cover that I usually present to anyone that inquires of my presence, besides law enforcement, of course, is that I am a civil process server with paperwork that I need to personally deliver to a neighbor that does not appear to be home.  I inform the concerned neighbor that I may be present for a number of hours until I can complete my work and that their local law enforcement has been informed of my presence.  This gives the neighbors a timeline and a sense of security.  Uniforms (i.e. safety vests, i.d. tags, etc.) can assist with a number of additional covers.  I’ve personally found that the civil process story works everywhere, as summons and complaints, divorce decrees, subpoenas and all remaining court documents requiring process service is usually understood, and accepted, by most.

Why is a company full of unique investigators beneficial for a diverse case load?

I find working with our team at Sherlock to be very beneficial in a number of ways!  The fact that we are big enough of a company to structure teams of subject matter experts really proves to be a major advantage.  Knowing that I can call on an expert investigator, with any specific investigative element, means that I call with confidence and that my needs while in the field will be immediately met, with positive results!  The uniqueness of such a structure, in an industry overwhelmingly flooded with one and two-man operations, provides an instantaneous flow of vital information needed throughout any varying type of surveillance file.

How do you keep yourself at an advantage in this line of work?

Ongoing education plays a major role in keeping ahead in this industry.  Connecting with career minded professionals via LinkedIn and other social media platforms helps sharpen my knowledge of the objectives, goals and overall opinions of our work.  The same can be applied to the technological advances that can benefit me while in the field also. As minimal and unnecessary some may feel, keeping physically strong with even limited physical exercise assists in much surveillance.  The need to exit my vehicle and sprint into a position that is inaccessible with my vehicle, the possibility of needing to utilize a piece of gym equipment next to my claimant, or something as simple as needing the stamina to stand for hours in the same position are all scenarios I have personally experienced, among others.  I’ve also learned, over the years, to always ask up front what the overall and specific objectives are regarding any surveillance file. This information can help when determining setup locations, vantage points and how aggressive I may need to be to complete those goals.

From the Investigator: Sherlock’s Most Unique Cases – Lenny

March 28th, 2019

Sherlock Investigation’s Most Unique Cases

One of the newest members of our team at Sherlock Investigations, Lenny Attar, has come to us from a lengthy career in law enforcement. Lenny has an interest in tattoos and a passion for protecting the vulnerable! If it is within his power to help someone out, he will do it. This series aims to address the unique circumstances that Private Investigators run into, as well as the impressionable outcomes that many of our cases hold. Let’s get to know our fourth investigator, Lenny, a little more!

How did you get into surveillance?

I got into surveillance over 18 years ago. I started as a Loss Prevention Manager with Target Corporation back in the year 2000. I used the CCTV to conduct video surveillance to apprehend shoplifters and internal dishonesty (i.e. cash theft, merchandise giveaways, unauthorized discounts, etc.) for 5 years.  From there I worked for Comerica Bank Headquarters where I was employed as a Bank Officer to create, implement, and establish an Anti-Money Laundering Department. This was expressly due to the Patriot Act of 9/11. The USA Patriot Act is a law that was passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. What this did was give law enforcement agencies broad powers to investigate, indict and bring terrorists to justice.  It also led to increased penalties for committing and supporting terroristic crimes. The Patriot Act expanded surveillance activity and had a huge impact on the U.S in regards to financial professionals and financial institutions engaging in cross-border transactions. My job was to research, write and submit corporate policy that would impact the corporation nationwide to bring Comerica Bank into compliance with federal laws as a financial institution.

After four years of doing that, I decided to work in law enforcement. I have held several positions in my career catching the bad guys, including a Parole Officer for the State of Michigan, the Michigan State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, South Eastern Michigan Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Absconder Recovery Unit. I really enjoyed it for a long time, but then I found myself working with two of my closest former colleagues and close personal friends here at Sherlock Investigations, where I continue to add to my life experience.

What is your opinion of the career now versus what you used to think the job entailed? How does your view differ from the public view of the job?

The job is pretty much what I thought it was with one exception. I used to think investigators were still using cameras with telescopic lenses and shooting pictures instead of video. I think people still do not really understand what PI’s do. This is because people think television character’s like, “Ray Donavan” are what PI’s do. We are not gangsters, but Hollywood sells that story to the public and some people buy into that notion. Like my Dad (Who is 76 y/o) for instance, calls me “Colombo” or” Magnum PI”, all he knows is what he has seen on television shows.

Are there any cases you worked on, that come to mind as very “unique “? Why is that?

Although I am new at Sherlock Investigations, one experience that sticks out in my mind is a case where we were doubled up on this guy who was a care provider for his wife. The wife allegedly suffered from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) due to a car accident. The client had been paying the claimant for over 15 years to the tune of just over two million dollars. My partner and I followed them around to a few spots before they finally headed back home. A few moments later, the husband and “sole care provider” for his wife, comes out of the residence all decked out in a nice suit and hat and gets back into the vehicle. We followed him to a liquor store, and then all the way to a talent agency (he was an aspiring 50 something-year-old rapper and wannabe producer). My partner and I decided to go into the business to investigate more about what services they offered and to try to get covert video of the claimant’s care provider, as he left his injured wife home alone while he was partying with his talent agency. While I was talking to one of the employees at the agency, my partner wondered off looking for the rest room and happened to get covert footage of our care provider without his wife present. I got a text message while I was pretending to be interested in the talent agency, saying, “I got it, let’s go I am outside”. I took the business card of the person I was talking to and left the building. It was a long day, but a nice pay off in the end!

What is one of your most successful “wins” as an investigator? A case where you made a positive difference in outcome.

I had the opportunity to work a case with one of my peers where we were conducting surveillance on a claimant that was working at a pizzeria – she was claiming all kinds of medical issues. We posed as a couple out to eat, and had the claimant serve us. My partner was getting great covert surveillance footage of the claimant bending at the waist, lifting trays of dirty dishes, and working her fingers to the bone. We enjoyed the free dinner and got great evidence for our client! A win for everyone involved.

What is your advice for other or aspiring investigators?

If this is the type of work is what you want to do, then do it! Life is too short to not enjoy what you do for a living. Most of us spend more time at work than we do at home, so you might as well spend your time doing something you enjoy. In this line of work it pays to be patient, wait for the right moment, get your ID footage then zoom out immediately and get the rest of the body on video so that it tells a story to the client about what, where, when and how their claimant is facilitating their daily activities.

What is your advice for our clients or potential clients on expectations for each case?

Be patient. Nothing in life happens overnight. Have reasonable expectations. Lastly, be prepared for the evidence that is presented to you. If you are not sure you really want to know the truth, then ignorance is bliss. On the flip side, just because you suspect someone is up to no good, does not necessarily mean they are. The goal should be to “locate” the truth regardless of the outcome.

 

The Importance in Choosing Your Surveillance Vehicle

March 26th, 2019

Working as a surveillance investigator for many years has taught me vital lessons during surveillance and ensuring I have the proper tools to get the job done. An important lesson in choosing a surveillance vehicle to work in was self-correcting. I’ve used various vehicles while conducting surveillance and there are some vehicles I prefer over others. If I had to give advice to a new investigator coming into the field on what to use for a surveillance vehicle, I’d offer vehicle details that made surveillance easier.

Converting over from one vehicle to another may take some time getting use to. However, working as a surveillance investigator, you will immediately know if it was the right choice or not. Investigators spend hours and hours in their vehicles. They will learn what to keep in their vehicles when working and how their bodies are impacted during long periods of time while seated in their vehicles. Therefore, all vehicles are not created equal for surveillance vehicles. Besides the size, comfort of a vehicle and amenities that comes with a vehicle, there’s more to it that meets the eye.

Surveillance Vehicle - Photo by Mike Bird from Pexels

Taking notice to details on the vehicle chosen for surveillance is imperative. For example, going from an SUV with larger windows to an SUV with smaller windows was never a concern before. I took notice of the smaller windows the first day I took a vehicle out during surveillance and realized the seats sat lower and the windows were smaller, making the dynamics of obtaining video critical for the client’s case. The immediate “duh” moment had surfaced and the adjustments in the vehicle began.  The smaller windows had the opening shot with remnants of the door and rearview mirror that stuck out more than the previous vehicle, that was another new element to consider. The ability to obtain video means the ability to see your target, obviously. The smaller windows did give a great advantage to hide from curious people in the area but if a vehicle contain dark materials, the ability to “hide” becomes easier as well.

There are many details to give curious minds on surveillance vehicles. Another tip I’d advise to have is dark or black seats. I took a vehicle on surveillance with beige leather seats before. They looked great to have in the vehicle and passengers loved the comfort. However, giving clients footage with a reflection of the interior of my vehicle would not be such a smart idea. Black seats, consoles, dashboards, etc. has assisted with obtaining an image with clarity. The nice chrome strips place on the dashboard to the chrome on the steering wheel and instrument panels are great as a personal vehicle. But for a surveillance vehicle, it will reflect off any window, especially if it illuminated by light sources. The light sources can come from your nice LED screen in the car and will make an appearance in your video footage. Some reflections are unavoidable when capturing video of a subject, no matter how prepared an investigator makes their vehicle.

The list can go on for pages on how to choose a surveillance vehicle. Some people prefer high profile vehicles, some may prefer just the opposite. But some things will remain across the board when obtaining footage… Accomplishing a day of footage with the least number of elements obstructing the view is something all investigators aim for; or at least they should. Small adjustments can assist with obtaining great footage for a client. If a vehicle has bright seats, black seat covers is always an option for on-duty gear. If the windows on a vehicle is smaller, attaching the video camera to a monopod may provide better coverage for video footage. The idea of investigators going out and just playing with a video camera is far from the truth. The preparation it takes for investigators to conduct their job may go unnoticed, but the most important things to keep in mind is to do what it takes to ensure excellent results. If a client is happy with the results performed by their investigators, hopefully, they can thank the hard workers that make it happen because they may never know what it took to obtain it.

From the Investigator: Sherlock’s Most Unique Cases – Bodashia

March 21st, 2019

Sherlock Investigation’s Most Unique Cases

As a fairly new employee with Sherlock Investigations, but also a seasoned investigator, Bodashia Grimm has come into the private sector with a vengeance.  Bodashia possesses a long list of qualifications including a B.S. in Criminal Justice and a Master’s in Business Administration. She has a love for finding outdoor adventure with her family and her dogs.  Bodashia  also volunteers with the American Red Cross conducting disaster assessments and shelter work, across the country; an effort that is 100% supported by our company. This series aims to address the unique circumstances that Private Investigators run into, as well as the impressionable outcomes that many of our cases hold. Let’s get to know our third interviewee, Bodashia, a little better!

How did you get into surveillance?

Approximately thirteen years ago, I started as an officer for the State of Michigan. A few years later, there were job postings for an Investigative Unit that would be looking for a small number of candidates to work in the Metro Detroit area. The moment I heard of the opportunity, my heart began to race as I thought back on all the cop shows I watched as a little girl. I would always announce that I wanted to be on the FBI Taskforce when I grew up. I imagined conducting surveillance and making huge cases on the news. I always paid attention to detail, loved gun sports, hunting, competing and working primarily with men. So, I applied – along with hundreds of other officers across the state that were excited to take a shot at the opportunity. The day finally came when a call from HR appeared on my caller ID – right before roll call one day. My heart started racing again and I answered “Hello”. The woman on the other end of the line offered me a position and without hesitation, I accepted! With the experience of three years as an officer, a member of the Emergency Response Team, a Gun Range Officer, and a trainer in courses for state officers – I felt I was finally headed in the direction to utilize my unique skill set. Almost eleven years later, I continue to learn new things everyday doing surveillance, especially since crossing over to the private side.

What is your opinion of the career now versus what you used to think the job entailed? How does your view differ from the public view of the job?

Television shows can leave impressions of investigators in fast pursuits of subjects, leading to a destination in the middle of nowhere, and dressing in trench coats with big hats. The trench style coat was very intriguing to me; however, surveillance investigators look to “fit in”, not stand out. I’m always questioned on how I do my job and what clothing I wear. I used to think that was an odd question for people to ask me – until people asked me all the time. Conducting surveillance in the field, searching with computer software, and interviewing people is my niche. It can be fun to “stake out” and watch people, businesses, or public areas – but it takes mandatory commitment to the job. I have always looked at my career as a hobby, because it’s what I love to do.   

Are there any cases you worked on, that come to mind as very “unique “? Why is that?

All cases are unique in their own way. Watching the surroundings in an environment is important. I have as much fun watching everything around me as much as an actual subject. One time, while retrieving footage of a subject in a parking lot and initiating mobile surveillance, I noticed two other vehicles aggressively following the subject’s vehicle. I had noticed the same vehicles doing circles in the parking lot about an hour before the subject came out. I kept my distance, with a visual on the subject and called our office regarding my observations. After the investigative staff reached out to the client for clarification on the mission, we determined the other vehicles were investigators watching the other person in the vehicle with my subject. It was an interesting ride to a deposition, which I casually took through three different cities and hoped the obvious investigators were not going to blow my case for me. In the end, I obtained the footage I needed without compromising myself to the subject and the other investigators on that day.

What is one of your most successful “wins” as an investigator? A case where you made a positive difference in outcome.

There was a time I had to locate a subject that was a sex offender, whom did not report his real address as required with the Michigan State Police (MSP). After weeks of interviewing people and conducting neighborhood canvasses, I had finally found a source that was willing to cooperate with me to find the subject. I notified the MSP Sex Offender Unit of my findings and collaborated to find the subject. My source revealed a particular time and place the subject would be. I made the call to MSP and I video recorded MSP taking the subject into custody. An MSP Trooper later notified me of descriptive evidence on the subject’s phone and in the backpack the subject had in their possession. There were twenty-five counts of violations that the subject pled guilty to in court – they were then sent back to prison.  

What is your advice for other or aspiring investigators?

A career as an investigator can lead to rewarding factors in many cases. It can be a different day every day, you will meet new people, it can be dangerous, you will have to make sacrifices, and you will have to utilize discretion. People may visualize all of the cool surveillance techniques to utilize if they were investigators, but foremost is having patience. The ability to make the right decisions is imperative to a case. Working with a good investigative support team, like I do, can make the job a lot easier to focus on the surveillance itself and it eliminates having to worry about a pre-surveillance workup. The job is not for everyone, most people find out early in the field if it’s not a good fit for them.

What is your advice for our clients or potential clients on expectations for each case?

All investigating agencies are not created equal. Making a choice on which agency to choose from may be difficult for some clients, or as easy as taking the lowest bidder for others. The quote, “You pay for what you get” should be taken into consideration. I would advise clients to do their research, take recommendations, and work with an agency that offers consistent results in what they need – an agency that has the resources to do the job right. Working at Sherlock Investigations as a surveillance investigator, I have every tool I need to be in the right place, at the right time. Our team of experts are able to produce a plan of action that is customizable to the client’s needs, creating the ability to produce reliable results, which makes cases cost-effective in the long-run.

Why Stationary Cameras are Becoming a Popular Way to Run Surveillance

March 19th, 2019

Quickly becoming one of the more popular means of investigation, is the method of using a stationary camera to run surveillance. Capable of being placed for just a few hours, or upwards of a week or more, the stationary camera can be placed in a multitude of locations and setup, giving a good indication of anything occurring at a given location. They can even be setup in conjunction with multiple cameras to show different vantage points, or alongside manned surveillance so that not only can your investigation show clearly what is happening at the home AND what is happening when the individuals leave the area.

Every home or location is different. The setups an investigator uses are dependent on the neighborhood, the speed limit and road it sits on, and on the address itself. There are lots of circumstance that may end up with the conclusion that an investigator is unable to sit in a location where they can record or document activity at the home without making their presence noted. Placing a stationary camera in a concealed location where it draws no attention and gives the uninterrupted video can give you that picture that cannot be obtained by any other means.

They are not without their limitations though, as a single camera may give you a good vantage of the property but may not be able to identify any persons. Combining the camera with a second camera can now show the constant activity in multiple ways. Say you have a property set far back from the street, and your subject parks up near the garage and there is just no way to get a clear image of them through the single camera. Combine the first stationary camera with a vantage of the whole property, with a second stationary camera zoomed in on the garage or front door, and you now have the ID shot you need combined with the footage of their arrival and departure in the vehicle.

For all the good things they can get you at the home though, they still cannot tell you where or what the persons who leaves the home is going. That is why we like to combine our investigation means and run both a stationary camera and manned surveillance whenever possible. Sometimes it makes sense to run it concurrently, but in many situations, we will run one following the other. By placing the camera on location for 3-5 days, you can generally develop a pattern of life at the home. Following that, placing an investigator on site during those likely activity times can document just what is happening away from the location and add to the overall value of the investigation.

Stationary cameras are not limited to their use on private residences though. We have successfully placed them in situations where there is thoughts of medical malpractice or fraudulent billing being done. Using available property and placing the camera in a given situation can show the traffic to and rom a clinic or other given location just as reliably as at a home. Whether it be a single camera, multiple cameras, or a stationary camera placed within a vehicle in a parking lot, there are multiple means to accomplish that task if needed.

While stationary cameras are not invisible, we take great lengths to ensure they are not discovered. We tend to air on the side of caution because of this and not recommend longer than 3-5 days with having the camera in the field. If you believe a stationary camera could aide you with an investigation you have going on, please let us know. We can help talk through whatever you have going on and come up with a solution that can help you answer whatever questions you may have. Whether it be a single

From the Investigator: Sherlock’s Most Unique Cases – Sean

March 14th, 2019

Sherlock Investigation’s Most Unique Cases

With one year at Sherlock Investigations, Sean Taig is a newcomer to the field of private investigations. Sean is currently pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice through Schoolcraft College. As an avid reader and a Wall Street enthusiast, Sean begins each day indulging in business newsletters. His favorite film is “Interstellar” by director Christopher Nolan, whom he considers a visionary in the film industry. This series aims to address the unique circumstances that Private Investigators run into, as well as the impressionable outcomes that many of our cases hold. Let’s get to know our second interviewee, Sean, a little more!

How did you get into surveillance?

Surveillance and investigative work have always been a big interest of mine. For as long as I can remember, I have been doing puzzles, trying to solve riddles, and as I grew older I became very interested in the crime scene style T.V. shows. Given these things I thought it would be a good decision to choose a career in investigative work, so here I am!

What is your opinion of the career now versus what you used to think the job entailed? How does your view differ from the public view of the job?

There are many different surveillance opportunities out there and I’m sure they all offer a variety of different experiences. Before I began working with Sherlock Investigations I already had a pretty good idea of what to expect due to the fact that someone close to me was in the field already. I used to think that the job was going to offer nothing but fun and intrigue. I quickly learned that it can also be extremely frustrating at times. For instance, when you’re conducting mobile surveillance and circumstances outside your control keep getting in your way. Such as: changing lights, slow drivers, being cut off by other drivers, and heavy traffic that causes you to lose your claimant. All things considered, a career in surveillance is an excellent one.

Often, when I tell people that I am a private investigator, they get super excited and they think of stakeouts and trench coats. A response I get frequently is “that’s so cool” or “that’s so interesting”, and while they aren’t wrong, people often don’t think about the reality of it all – which is sitting around waiting for something to happen! There are some days where you can sit at a location for a full eight hours with no activity and others where the claimant is active when you arrive! So yes, there are going to be boring times but when the good is good, it’s real good!

Are there any cases you worked on, that come to mind as very “unique “? Why is that?

Occasionally we will work cases where we have to track packages of fraudulently purchased goods. In my opinion those are my favorite and most unique cases. In most cases, you wait for the package(s) to be delivered and then it’s go time! After that it’s non-stop moving and tracking, working with other investigators and occasionally the local police to stay on top of it. Needless to say, these types of cases are very exciting.

What is one of your most successful “wins” as an investigator? A case where you made a positive difference in outcome.

During the summer I had a case where the claimant admitted to having multiple different back issues. Per these issues, the claimant was not supposed to be able to stand, walk or run for long periods of time. Well unlucky for them, I was able to obtain video footage of the claimant on their front porch doing some pretty extreme stretching. The type of stretching you would most definitely not be able to do with these kinds of claims. THEN, they went for a run! And where did they run to you ask? The gym! Unfortunately, I was not made aware of the continuing status of this case, but I would like to think that my video footage was a done deal and a case closer!

What is your advice for other or aspiring investigators?

I personally beat myself up A LOT if I am unfortunate enough to lose a claimant. One thing you must understand if you are working this job is that there are so many things outside of your control that work against you when conducting mobile surveillance. Yes, it’s a terrible feeling when you lose somebody but sometimes there is nothing you can safely do. It is always better to let them go and pick them up later or try again another day than to stay tight on their rear and have them catch on to you. All you can do is to do your absolute best, and at the end of the day if you can look back and say honestly that you gave it your all – that’s what is important.

What is your advice for our clients or potential clients on expectations for each case?

With Sherlock Investigations, you are going to get the best product possible. We pride ourselves in providing quality with the circumstances and information we are provided. We are taught to work as if the client is sitting in our passenger seat. Not only does that hold us personally accountable but we hold each other accountable by the same standard. We have a system here and we are not afraid to call each other out if in fact something is out of line. Bottom line is simply that Sherlock Investigations will strive for a high-quality product at a reasonable price.

Last Month in Surveillance

March 9th, 2019

February was a funny month for attempting to proactively schedule surveillance efforts.  Blowing snow in the early morning sent me home before I even ventured more than 15 miles from Brighton, TWICE!!  We saw 50 degrees once, or twice, but with that came rain.  These factors kept claimant activity rate, collectively, from rising all that far above what we consider to be average for this time of year.  But, don’t fret…the war stories continue…

One case, in particular, took us right into the center of Michigan where our claimant disclosed at her IME that she can no longer function normally, due to injuries sustained from a recent near slip and fall accident at work.  Fair enough…I guess.  I mean, I can’t even count the number of times I did slip and fall on my ass this past month NOT including the vast number of NEAR slip and falls, but I digress…  So, what does normal functionality really mean in this case?  Well, her admission of being unable to drive herself anywhere anymore got the attention of her employer and hence our presence.  Surveillance on day one saw the claimant walk properly to her SUV, enter the vehicle and depart the area, driving like she had someplace to be.  Surveillance on day two was interesting.  She was picked up by a relative to go to treatment AND ambulated in such a manner that I couldn’t help but chuckle, even if just in my head.  Day three looked much like day one of surveillance, following the claimant as she drove herself to three different locations and day four looked just like day two; another treatment day, another dog and pony show.  We’re not quite done with this case file and maybe we’ll even revisit the final findings next month.

Now, let’s venture over to the east side of the state.  Multiple injuries to this claimant have kept him from going back to work, in addition to really doing anything even close to active.  Okay, he got the benefit of the doubt, but just to be proactive our client decided a quick peek-a-boo into his day-to-day activities might be beneficial to solidify his claim…or otherwise…  A few days of stationary surveillance was set up to monitor the activity level at the claimant’s residence.  And, something interesting appeared on video…somebody left the home at very early morning hours on all three days!  Ok, so what?  Well, it happened to be the claimant’s vehicle that left…ALL three days!  Yeah, yeah, yeah…it could have been his wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, whoever…good point.  But, the footage proved even more interesting when it was the claimant returning home in the same vehicle, 12-13 hours later, just before dark…ALL three days!  With those findings, manned surveillance followed.  And followed we did!  Right to the claimant’s new apparent place of employment!  I say “appeared” only because I have not seen the final report findings on this one yet, but I can only imagine that a simple employment screening/verification has been completed.

One more “quickie”, again, from the east side.  A male claimant has injured himself and can no longer work.  I know, we’ve heard this one somewhere before…  Two out of three days of surveillance found the claimant taking a nice drive over to another residence in a nice neighborhood, probably just there to visit a relative or something probably, right?  WRONG!!  Well, not unless he was just there, on multiple occasions to carry in a step ladder, extension pole, tarp, hammer and other tools just to drop off for someone there to borrow…  And then stay for extended periods of time, maybe to simply demonstrate how those tools all work properly???  That would be my argument in his shoes, I guess.

February picked up right where January left off in the insurance world regarding dishonesty and potential fraud.

Until next month….

From the Investigator: Sherlock’s Most Unique Cases – Samantha

March 7th, 2019

Investigator of the Year, Samantha CastilloAfter two years with our company, Samantha Castillo has had a good sampling of what field work as a Private Investigator can offer. Samantha came to us from the Detroit Police Department after working as a Crime Analyst, and is an alumnus of Central Michigan University and Michigan State University. Her transfer from the public to the private sector has been benefited her work in many ways, and she continues to learn and adapt with every new challenge this industry brings. This series aims to address the most unique cases that Private Investigators run into, as well as the impressionable outcomes that many of our cases hold. Let’s get to know our first interviewee, Samantha, a little better!

1. How did you get into surveillance?

I was looking for an opportunity to do more boots-on-the-ground type of work. Coming from a background that involved a lot of research, data and computer time – I found myself wanting to expand my skills set to include real world applicability. It was about two years ago that I decided to pursue private investigations and I have not regretted it one bit. Sometimes a change of scenery can help you grow as a person.

2. What is your opinion of the career now versus what you used to think the job entailed? How does your view differ from the public view of the job?

There is definitely a level of technicality that I was not expecting. The amount of precision that goes into camera work, human interaction and report writing is substantial. It takes a considerable amount of time to learn how to do this job satisfactorily. Many people think that they can do this job, but the truth is that it is not for everyone. Previously, I believed that the job would require little to no energy, but honestly you need a special kind of stamina in order to do this. I don’t think you know that you have that special thing, until you actually perform the job in real time.

3. Are there any cases you worked on, that come to mind as very “unique “? Why is that?

Yes, I had a child custody case that supposedly included an element of neglect. The wife of a man with two young kids, they were both younger than 5, was convinced that her soon to be ex-husband was not taking care of the children when they were in his custody; she claimed that they were always hungry, dirty or hurt when they were returned home. While following this man, I was sure that I would see some unsavory behavior all day. Turns out they were hungry, dirty and hurt because he kept them busy all day long with swimming, baseball, etc. They were definitely fed, and he even bought groceries – which did not include any junk food. At one point I witnessed him run full speed to grab the youngest child from running into traffic. This was unique in my mind because many people assume that just because we are following someone, that they are assumed to be guilty.

4. What is one of your most successful “wins” as an investigator? A case where you made a positive difference in outcome.

Like I previously stated, we cannot assume anyone is guilty. We can only report back what we observed, even if it is not what our client is expecting to happen. The case with the two young children would be a win in my eyes, as we did not find any positive signs of abuse or neglect. As investigators, we need to celebrate a lack of evidence, especially in those types of cases.

5. What is your advice for other or aspiring investigators?

My biggest advice would be to ask yourself if you are a “people person”. It may be surprising, but the amount of general public, law enforcement, subjects and even clients that you come in contact with on this job are relatively high. Keeping your cool and being able to read another person is vital.

6. What is your advice for our clients or potential clients on expectations for each case?

You cannot expect any one particular outcome. The most efficient way to gauge someone’s behavior is by establishing a pattern; this can take days or even weeks depending on someone’s level of activity. Patience is needed if success is wanted!