Surveillance is one of the most common services provided to the public by licensed private investigators. Surveillance involves discretely following someone as they move through their daily routine, obtaining video documentation of their activities. Sometimes called an “activity check,” surveillance is applicable to a wide range of investigative case types.
For most cases surveillance begins in the morning, with the investigator discretely watching the subject’s residence. A well-prepared investigator will know what the subject drives and have a digital image ready for reference on a tablet or smart phone.
The purpose of surveillance, in all cases, is the video. Clear, stable images of the subject framed evenly in the view of the camera is the goal. Zooming in our out to obtain greater detail should be done smoothly, and the camera should never be jerked or bumped while shooting.
Generally, the camera should be focused upon the whole of the subject so to obtain a full body view as they perform whatever physical activity in which they are engaged. However, the investigator should also on occasion focus on the face of the subject to get a clear “identification” shot to maintain certainty in the mind of the audience.
Additionally, close in focus should be used at the discretion of the investigator to obtain greater detail based on the facts of the case. For example, for a cheating spouse case the video would focus in on the couple sharing a kiss or holding hands because those are physical acts whose capture on video essentially satisfies the client’s goal.
Another example of fact focusing are insurance fraud cases. Where an individual is claiming an insured injury, whether on the job (workers’ compensation) or on someone’s property (property liability) or from an auto accident, and the insurance company suspects the injury is either faked, or has healed and the extent of the injury is now being over stated, the investigator will seek to focus on the physical activity that involves the subject’s injuries.
Back and neck claims are common knowledge in the public, with a strong feeling that any neck or back claim will result in quick and easy money when the insurance company pays off. There is more truth to that cynical view than is good for us. fortunately, in many cases the insurance companies fight back with the help of the surveillance investigator.