Working as a surveillance investigator, private investigators working for government agencies or privately employed surveillance investigators function with their respective employers to gather evidence to support legal proceedings and to draw inferences from their findings. This position entails collecting information on subjects of interest, either by travel to their location to video tape and document their behavior, or by physically collecting documents and other evidence. Private investigators generally must work closely with their subject and follow their every movement. To most private investigators, following a subject around and filming even the slightest move is unethical and often illegal. In fact, many states have “anti-snooping” laws that outline the specifics of what can and cannot be filmed when on private property. In addition to following their subject, surveillance investigators are also required to observe conditions in the workplace and report any problems they notice.
While surveillance has become an integral part of law enforcement investigations in recent years, not all private investigators specialize in surveillance. There are basically two types of private investigators that you will find working in this capacity; those that specialize in investigative approaches, as well as those that perform surveillance as part of their job duties. Some private investigators specialize in only one particular area such as corporate security, vehicle safety, labor issues, health care, intellectual property infringement, and fraud. While there are many other specialized areas of investigation, these are the more common areas. Most private investigators however, if not all, specialize in at least some area of surveillance. In many ways, private investigators provide a unique set of skills and expertise when it comes to surveillance techniques and the investigative process.
The primary job of a surveillance private investigator is to obtain and document evidence that helps the law enforcement agency successfully prosecute a case. Depending on the jurisdiction, surveillance investigators may also need to verify the identity of subjects, and may interview witnesses to obtain additional information that is helpful to the case. A surveillance investigator may also need to secretly video monitor an activity that involves children or is otherwise deemed inappropriate under the law. While most surveillance involves confidential sources and methods, some surveillance investigators use techniques and methods that are open to debate and controversy.
Surveillance techniques vary greatly in different jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions allow covert video recordings without prior notification or permission. While such investigations may not always be considered ethical, many surveillance investigators feel that covert recording offers a higher level of evidence for prosecution purposes. In other jurisdictions, surveillance investigators are required to inform subjects of the recording and ask for their permission before recording any part of the conversation. Some jurisdictions, surveillance investigators are required to notify subjects of the existence of a hidden camera, but are not required to inform subjects that they are being recorded.
Physical surveillance involves surveillance of a suspect by law enforcement officers. While this type of surveillance is not considered spying by most Americans, it is still considered unlawful behavior by some jurisdictions. Physical surveillance involves video and/or audio recording of a suspect without consent from the target. This differs from “spying” as defined by the U.S. Constitution, because spying requires notification or knowledge of the targeted individual.
The majority of surveillance investigations occur in hospitals and clinics. Instances where surveillance investigators may perform physical surveillance include visiting or examining a patient in order to determine the condition and nature of a disease, or determining whether a patient is using counterfeit or incorrect medical supplies. Many clinics and hospitals have rules governing when and how surveillance investigators may conduct physical surveillance of patients. They may require authorization, or provide some type of warrant or court approval for the monitoring of a particular patient. Instances in which surveillance investigators may use physical surveillance legally are often limited to cases involving threats to a patient’s safety or well-being.
Many individuals choose to hire private investigators to conduct surveillance investigations on their own behalf. While it is possible to learn how to conduct such an investigation, learning how to legally intercept telephone calls would not be considered an appropriate hobby, nor would it benefit a business. Private investigators are typically referred to as “private investigators” or “investigators” by the media and legal profession. These individuals are generally referred to as “private eye” or “trio” Investigators. It is up to the consumer to ensure that they are hiring the right private investigators, who possess the necessary experience and skills and who do not jeopardize or create a bad reputation for themselves through unethical or unnecessary surveillance activities.
Video Evidence Collection is another important area of responsibility for a surveillance investigator. Because many surveillance investigators rely on video evidence in court, it is crucial that the video evidence they collect complies with all applicable laws and regulations. If the surveillance investigator fails to properly document the origin of the video evidence or fails to properly document and preserve the evidence, he or she may be held legally liable for negligence. Because video evidence is not always as clear and complete as recordings from internal camera and video recorders, it is important that the surveillance investigator to have access to other sources of video evidence in order to enhance his or her case. Additionally, many surveillance investigators utilize digital video equipment in combination with surveillance cameras and /or video surveillance equipment to better document and preserve evidence.