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Sherlock Investigations: Tricks of the Surveillance Trade – Keith

Helpful surveillance tips and tricksSherlock Investigation’s Tricks of the Trade

Keith Stotts has seen a thing or two in his years as an investigator. He comes from a law enforcement background based in the military, specifically the U.S. Army. Keith has also held positions as a Field Surveillance Officer with the Court Services Unit in Virginia and worked as contractor for I.C.E. at the headquarters in Fairfax, VA. He majored in Criminal Justice throughout college, and still enjoys keeping up to date with new laws that are passed. He also enjoys the outdoors, fishing and hunting as much as possible. This has worked to his and Sherlock Investigation’s benefit in the past, as he has been able to utilize his own personal sporting equipment during surveillance. This series is facilitated to give the reader a taste of the field investigator’s daily surveillance routine. Let’s get to know our third interviewee, Keith, better than ever!

How do you begin your workday?

My day actually begins the day before the case is to be worked. We receive all of our pertinent case information the day before. I study the information that is provided in the case information sheet, which includes description of the subject, addresses associated with the subject, possible vehicles that the subject may be associated with, workplaces, and a list of injuries claimed by the subject (if applicable). On top of this, I may be provided with previous surveillance efforts, and possible new addresses, vehicles, and subject suspicion level. All of these help me establish a basis for what I may encounter for the day. The day of surveillance I re-check addresses and program them all into my GPS in order of relevance to the level of activity which was previously obtained. I then make sure my vehicle is full on gas (you never know where some people will drive to), windows are clean, and all of my equipment is ready to go.

What does your surveillance setup consist of?

I normally drive a black Chevrolet Impala, with tinted windows. I like this car a lot for surveillance purposes as it’s a common vehicle found in most neighborhoods. I can go from very congested areas of Detroit, to more upscale neighborhoods with little regard from people that live in the areas. If there are times when I’m tasked with a more rural case, or a case in the northern part of the state I opt to utilize my truck, Dodge Ram 1500 with tinted windows. The truck offers me a more believable cover for these areas. Another vehicle that I’ve used a few times in the past is my boat. Several times our subject has been in a position that we were only able to obtain footage of them, or their residence, from the water. As far as equipment, I try to use as little as I think I’m going to need for any case. If I’m working in the greater Detroit area, I’ll bring a backpack with my camera, extra battery, spare camera, note pad, and a battery charger. If it’s more of a rural setup I’ll bring my magnetic stickers for my doors, a clipboard, and a safety vest. Always have binoculars with you, no matter where you set up!

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

Generally in the field, I’ll go with no disguise. To me they look phony, and fake is easy to spot. I go with what I, or the people in the area that I’m working, would normally
wear. If I’m approached by someone in the neighborhood I’ll generally use the cover as a process server waiting for someone to get home so I can give them a subpoena. This cover works really well, as most of the time people really have no idea how any of the process service works. It’s nice to have an old subpoena in your vehicle, just in case you need to show a really unbelieving neighbor – making sure to not show any names on the paperwork, as long as they see the seal you’re fine.

 

If I’m working a more rural area, I’ll have a magnetic placard on my door if I absolutely have to, but I’ll wear a safety vest and advise anyone that makes contact with me that I’m waiting for a surveyor to establish new cable service in the area. That has gotten more than one nosey neighbor excited that they might be getting better cable in their area.

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

When you have a company with many different types of people, from diverse backgrounds you can actually broaden your work area. There are a lot of diverse cultures in the greater Metro Detroit area that ranges from low income urban areas, to highly affluent big money areas. Being able to blend in to any of these areas will help our clients obtain the best possible bang for their buck, as we are able to provide the information that we need. I have always tried to become the “Grey Man” when working in areas with a lot of people. The “Grey Man” is someone that doesn’t stand out, or get noticed. If you are noticed, it’s usually just a glance, and passed off as nothing more than slight curiosity.

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

I try to retain as much knowledge from previous cases as possible. Is there a case that I had where my subject likes to golf, fish, hunt, or shop? Any little thing that I did on previous cases will always be helpful in the future. Being “On top” is important to me from a company perspective, but helping the rest of my team be the best that they can be is so very important. To me that is the best thing going. If we have a team that continually tries to make each other better every day, then THAT is what staying “On Top” is all about. Learning new things about the law, new technology, new ideas, and sharing them with the rest of the team. Never stop learning.