Another Summer of Surveillances: What We Learned This Year
Posted by Writing PIs on September 12, 2010
Every summer, the number of surveillances we conduct increases. We figure this is due to people being out and about more in the sunny weather, parents not being tied to their kids’ school schedules, people taking vacations, and maybe (we like to think) our growing reputation as capable investigators.
This past summer, we learned (or in some cases, re-valued) some lessons in conducting successful surveillances, which we’ll share in today’s post.
Lesson #1: An investigator needs to respect the heat! While conducting a days-long, grueling surveillance this summer, one of us had issues with heat exhaustion. It was a strong reminder that any work conducted outdoors in the summertime means staying cool & staying hydrated. Here’s a few ideas for staying cool: bringing ice packs along on the surveillance, picking shady spots to park in, ensuring there’s adequate ventilation, if appropriate running air conditioning (there’s also portable units investigators can purchase that help keep the inside of a vehicle cool), when possible taking breaks in air-conditioned buildings, wearing a rimmed hat and sunglasses. Staying hydrated includes such safeguards as drinking water, Gatorade or fruit juices (not sodas or coffee!), as well as wearing loose-fitting and cool clothes.
Lesson #2: Mine your client for details. It’s funny how many people call and ask us to follow someone without any suggestions or knowledge about the subject’s schedule or habits. Maybe in the movies a PI can jump into a car and follow someone for hours without any idea where that person typically goes that time of day, or is scheduled to go on that particular day, but it’s asking for failure in real-life surveillances. It aids the surveillance significantly to have an idea where the person might be travelling, or if they have a set appointment (hair dresser, exercise club, therapist) for that day and time. How does a PI find this information? It’s critical to interview the client and ask about the subject’s habits, schedules, work routines, and so forth. Sometimes we’ll work on an “on-call” basis with a client (he/she calls us when they have information where a subject will be that day–of course, this doesn’t mean we’re available at that particular time, but this is an understanding of the “on-call” approach).
Lesson #3: Stay in close touch with your PI partner. We conducted multiple two-car mobile surveillances this summer, and we re-learned the value of staying in constant touch when we’re both “rolling.” Before we drive through traffic following a vehicle, we’ll call each other on our cells, then leave that line of communication open as we drive. We put our phones on speaker, set them on our laps, then talk to each other as we drive. This way, we can immediately inform each other if the car is turning, if we’re playing “leap frog” with the vehicle, and so forth. In the “old days” we used our two-way radios, which got problematic if we got out of the range of the signal (it also was difficult to be pressing the talk button at times while driving).
These were our summer surveillance lessons, and techniques we learned to re-value, for 2010. We’ve heard other investigators talk about using tinted windows, installing a roof vent in the vehicle, wearing canvas shoes, if possible working at night vs. the day, one even swore she remained cool with a bandana filled with ice wrapped around her neck (an interesting image!).
Have a great week, Writing PIs