Surveillance Investigators and Their Changing Role in the Criminal Justice Profession
Surveillance investigators work in various organizations. Specific duties and responsibilities will vary, however there are some core activities associated with this job, which include: conducting case analysis, preparing and carrying out surveillance, and surveillance support. When assigned a case, surveillance investigators often consult with their client to explain the case s goals and specific research requirements. Surveillance investigators also interview witnesses, collect documents and evidence, and make phone calls as needed to verify or gather additional information. The surveillance team may also perform other functions such as surveillance and risk management, and coordinate with legal counsel.
There are many professional societies, professional associations and government agencies that provide training and support for surveillance investigators. Most private investigation training programs require extensive experience in criminal justice, intelligence, law enforcement, terrorism, and the legal system. Many investigators obtain on-the-job training and on-the-job experience through active duty and retired military service. Often times, the most successful surveillance investigators begin their careers by obtaining an associate’s degree in criminal justice. However, some private investigation programs also require candidates to take a national exam, and then take a state exam before becoming certified.
Some surveillance investigators specialize in one or two areas of investigation. For example, international affairs and counter-terrorism is a very busy specialty area. Therefore, candidates working in this area must have excellent communication skills, great research skills, the capability to deal with multiple personalities, and an ability to obtain access to classified information and sources. Other specializations are forensic investigation, corporate security, and computer surveillance.
Many surveillance investigators choose to specialize in one or two areas. Specialization can be advantageous in two ways. First, it allows investigators to concentrate on a single crime at a time. Second, it provides a method of specialization so that specific knowledge is not required for all investigations. For instance, if an insurance investigator specializes in insurance fraud, he/she can spend her/his time studying only insurance fraud.
There are also specialties within the field of criminal justice. Specialization in criminal justice allows surveillance investigators to concentrate on a specific crime type. For example, there are specific surveillance investigators that specialize in civil rights, correctional officers, sex offenders, terrorists, and parole officers. Some states even require criminal justice analysts to receive specific training and licensing in the use of video surveillance equipment. In order to work in this specialty area, however, the criminal justice analyst must receive specific training and licensing from the relevant state.
There are many specialized investigative services that surveillance investigators work on. For example, they may be called on to evaluate a drug case involving a manufacture or distribution of drugs. They may be called upon to serve as expert witnesses in court cases regarding crimes such as robbery, burglary, arson, assault, homicide, and drug possession. Surveillance investigators also serve as private investigators for businesses or individuals who suspect that another employee, contractor, or customer is engaged in illegal activity.
Another area in which video surveillance investigators can find employment is in private investigation. In private investigation, investigators carry out personal searches on the subjects of their investigations. Often, they track down people who elude to public record searches. A private investigator may follow a subject for days or weeks before finally having a successful interview. Video surveillance investigators are specially trained to make initial contact with subjects. When the interview is concluded, they conduct further research and follow up.
Surveillance techniques and equipment have dramatically changed the way law enforcement officials do their job. Today, surveillance investigators can use sophisticated video equipment and techniques to obtain incredibly detailed and even live looking pictures of subjects. For example, a surveillance investigator may be able to see the subject’s face when they wear sunglasses, or they may be able to record the temperature of someone’s hands. They may also be able to see scars, marks, and hair colour. Because of these tools, police officers are able to investigate crimes with much higher efficiency, and to prevent crimes from being committed in the first place.