Working as an investigator and conducting surveillance for over a decade, one would imagine all the stories you can add to your mental notes to ponder around a bonfire one day. Working years in the state and federal government, then converting over to the private sector utilizing video cameras to conduct investigations has enhanced my skills. Can working for those various elements as an investigator give you a huge insight on things to expect while working in the field? Yes… I think, right? Well, I am here to tell you, just when you think you’ve seen it all…. try doing all of this being a female investigator!
My disclaimer: I am not saying any male investigator is less interesting, better or worse than any female investigator. What I would like to point out is the mere challenges, discretion, video surveillance and extraordinary circumstances that may allow women to appreciate the overcoming obstacles and tips from working in surveillance. I am asked many questions from various people when they find out where I work and/or my expertise. A few of the common reactions: “I would’ve never expected you to work in that field” or “you do not look like you work as an investigator” and even “I need you to video spy on my boyfriend”. I would assume they may refer to the thought of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones characters in the 1997 movie Men in Black, all black suits with dark glasses and erasing people’s memory of their alien friends in action. Well, I can’t compete with all that funny entertainment or with a list of policies when a routine circumstance arises.
There is nothing routine about working video surveillance! After completing a detective school for law enforcement surveillance, I found that the tips given to make surveillance more convenient did not include a section dedicated for a female investigator. Again, not a male basher at all, I began my career with male trainers. However, video surveillance may involve long hours, a variance in the environment, satisfying curious or paranoid people, undercover roles, etc. With experience in surveillance, I’ve learned a few tips for survival out in the field and love to pass along things I have overcome, big or small.
I am sure many investigators may relate to the common obstacles working out in the field and can share experiences like mine. But, dealing with men out in the field has made the pattern of “thinking outside of the box” unique for me as a female investigator. One nice afternoon as I recorded video footage for a case, a neighbor and his buddies came outside sitting around on the porch and looked my way several times. As my wheels began to turn on how I will respond to them — because I know it’s coming — I checked all my mirrors again, surrounding environment, GPS map of the area, placement/coverup of my video surveillance equipment, and prepared for anything. One on the guys, that appeared to be the leader of the group — by displaying a cocky stance on the sidewalk with his chest poking out — walked toward my vehicle wobbling side-to-side like he was a penguin and grabbing the groin part of his pant, arrived at my driver’s window to initiate a conversation. I politely greeted him with a smile, he smiled back, tucked his chest back in while looking toward his buddies and giving them the signal of approval for me being there. After listening to his story of being a rapper, knowing celebrities, and inviting me to meet his friends at his house, I politely declined, gave him a quick story to satisfy my existence in the area and was thankful I didn’t have to stay much longer afterward. The engaging, yet annoying conversation with him helped my cover in the area. I did not look suspicious, threatening, and I appeared be visiting the guy at my window whom claimed he knew everyone in the neighborhood. It was torture pretending I knew the local rappers he bragged about and him insisting I be a model in his upcoming music videos; all while I had the least amount of eye contact with him in order to maintain my cover, and highly alert for any changes at the house I watched. Finally, I got him to buzz off after a few moments and he didn’t bother me any further. Afterwards, I had thoughts of wishing I had eaten a burger full of onions for lunch, used pieces of aluminum foil to pretend I had white gold or platinum teeth, or even stepped in my dogs’ poop before work and had the aroma emanating from my car window. Oh, the stories… and the videos to prove some laughs.
Preparing a cover story or two for use during surveillance in a residential area may make or break a case. Evaluating the totality of circumstances, the demeanor of you/the curious neighbor and the direction of a conversation (or cover) helps to quickly eliminate obstacles to maintain integrity of the surveillance. My years of experience and skill set is embraced by my bosses. It leaves me to do what I am good at and ensures a great service to satisfy clients. Priceless…
Check out the company’s website at www.claimspi.com for more information on how we can be of service to you. Also remember, if it didn’t happen on video, it never happened.