Surveillance: Past, Present and Future

Surveillance is an intrinsic part of a private investigator’s craft. Also known as spying, it is a way of gathering and collating information, and then using that information to increase one’s understanding of another party’s actions and intentions. There is a distinction between surveillance and spying though. Surveillance is solely the act of gathering information whereas spies often spread false information to mislead opponents.

Before beginning surveillance, a private investigator will begin by learning as much about the target as possible.
If the target is a place, then they will first locate all available entrances and exits; once these are established they will search for appropriate vantage points.
If the target is a person, then they will try to find as much information as possible about the person’s friends, habits, and methods of transportation.

One can be forgiven for thinking that it is only in modern times that technology has been utilized. Going back in time though, one of the first tools used by investigators was a telescope; it is no coincidence that a telescope was often referred to as a spyglass.

There are many pieces of equipment that a modern-day licensed private investigator can choose from. Some of them are legal and some are not; depending on the state that the private investigator is operating.

Long-range cameras and video cameras are portable and are used to carry out physical surveillance from a distance. Fixed CCTV is also used but can be unreliable due to either adverse weather conditions or mechanical breakdown. There are long-range listening devices that can hear conversations taking place inside an otherwise accessible building. GPS trackers that once were only suitable for fixing to a car, are now small enough to be hidden in clothing. When thinking about surveillance, we should not forget another part of an investigator’s job, that being counter-surveillance. Whereas in the past rooms would be inspected physically, now there are many ways to detect and defend against unauthorized surveillance; whether that be in a room, a computer or an email account.

Going forward, the use of drones may become a significant part of a private investigator’s arsenal; we can only guess as to how their capabilities to look, listen, and follow will develop, and how small they may become.

As with all technology, the use of drones will be subject to state and federal legislature. For this reason, we recommend that you only use a licensed private investigator, who is not only skilled in the art of surveillance but also, knowledgeable about local laws.

To read more about surveillance, you are invited to visit our Surveillance webpage here.

We hope that you found this article interesting. If you have any questions regarding surveillance in Washington State or any other matters, then please call us on 253 234 4301 in Tacoma, or 206 661 0412 in Everett.