When a Private Investigator has been hired to do surveillance on an individual, the reasons may vary but the basic premise is the same. You need to first locate the Subject, then establish a location from which to see them when they leave. Then ultimately, you want to be able to follow them to whatever or whomever it is that they are headed off to. Most times the goal of the surveillance is to get proof that the Subject is planning something that they are not supposed to be doing. It could be a cheating situation where they are headed off to meet the “other woman or man” or an employee that is claiming a Worker’s Compensation or disability injury while working off the books somewhere else. Regardless of the reason, the basic plan is to get proof for the client of what is (or is not) happening.
In order to have the most success, you need to do your homework first. Here are a few pointers to help you get started.
Know The Area – Yes, the basic goal is the same when conducting a surveillance, but how it is achieved always varies. The environment that it is conducted in, along with the “key players” always change, and in order to be successful you must learn to adjust to these changes in a split second in order to reach your goal. Also, the way that you change depends on the area and the details. A surveillance in Malba, Queens for example, would be more likely to be from a house than perhaps Glen Oaks, Queens, which would more likely be from an apartment. This requires two different approaches to how you conduct the case. While both of these areas are within Queens, NY, they are very different and as an Investigator you must adapt and blend in as much as possible in order to be successful. You need to know your surroundings BEFORE you start your case. You should always take a “leisurely drive” down the road in advance to make sure you can scope out the best locations to sit. This serves many purposes which impact when and where you will set up. Is it a one-way street? You would want to park “past” the residence to catch them leaving if they have a vehicle. Is it on a busy main road? You may want to set up in the parking lot nearby. Does the street sweeper come through on certain days/times? Make sure you set up on the correct side of the road so you don’t have to move when they come through. Have potential spots in mind so when the time comes, you are ready to get to work. The last thing you want to do is draw attention to your vehicle by driving around the neighborhood multiple times for an extended amount of time. Neighbors can make or break your anonymity in one phone call to the NYPD. Nothing says “check out that person in the car” like a squad car pulling up next to you asking for ID.
Timing the Surveillance – When you meet with the Client, you must ask as many questions as possible in order to figure out the best time to conduct the surveillance. There is nothing more frustrating for both the Client and the Investigator than to waste time sitting for hours and having no activity because the Subject is not where you are. You need to ask the Client what the Subject’s routine is in order to figure that out. Once you establish the times NOT to conduct the surveillance, then you can narrow down the best times to do so. Have your client come up with a list of times when they think the cheating may occur. That is always a good start – but not set in stone. Then ask when the Subject would NOT be potentially cheating. For example, if they always go as a couple to St. Paul’s in Glen Oaks, Queens every Sunday morning, then obviously we would not be conducting surveillance at that time. We’ve done many surveillances where the cheating occurred during times when the Client thought they were at work or at their gym, etc. So use it as a guideline, but not as the only times unless it is something that the Client and the Subject do together. If they do not typically do that activity together, then it may be something to investigate if you are not having luck at the times when the Client thinks it is happening. Let’s say the Subject is from Rego Park and you know, for example, that the Subject is Jewish. Ask if there is a possibility that the Subject may be in Synagogue on Friday evening or Saturday morning. Not to say that every Jew is devout, but it is important to ask questions like these when meeting with your client. If they say “yes they are,” then you know not to do your surveillance at those times on those days.
Know Their Mode Of Transportation – When conducting surveillance in NYC, it is critical to know the Subject’s most likely choice of transportation. Do they own a vehicle? If so, what is the make, model, and color? Do they have a plate number? What state is the plate issued from? Where do they most often park? Do they own or drive more than one vehicle? These are all very important to know. And be prepared to have Clients that don’t know any details other than “it’s a black sedan”. That will then be their homework to find out, if possible.
But not everyone in NYC drives a vehicle, especially in East Elmhurst. A lot of the population takes public transportation or a car service, such as Uber or Lyft. This is also important to know because if they do use public transportation, you will need to set up closer to the residence and you may need two people to work it until you know which direction they are in the habit of going. Do they head towards a bus stop or the subway? Do they just call a car service? These are all possible scenarios that you need to know in order to prepare as much as possible. Once you learn their preferred transportation, you should be able to continue with one-person surveillance. However, you don’t want to be on foot when they jump into an Uber and your vehicle is half a block away unless you have another PI waiting for your signal to “follow that cab!”
Other Helpful Tips/ Information – Some Clients are more, let’s just say, “involved” than others. We’ve all had our share of over-involved clients that want to play spy. They send you dozens of photos, track their spouse on “find my friends” and will text or call too often telling you every detail up to when the subject leaves the residence, then expect a “play by play” account of what is happening. While this can be a little much, some of it can have some value. You must stress to them, however, NOT to do anything or say anything that they normally would not do when interacting with the Subject. If they do anything out of the ordinary, then it could jeopardize the case immediately. I once had a Client in Beechhurst, Queens who decided out of the blue to “take a selfie” with the Subject as she was leaving for work. Since they hadn’t been talking for weeks, the Subject was immediately suspicious, and doing this made the case red hot. We had to wait months before we could try again, all because he wanted to send us a photo of what the Subject looked like and how she was dressed that morning to “help”. So stress to your Client that they should do exactly what they would normally do. Do not change anything unless it happens naturally and by chance. While we appreciate knowing what they may be wearing or carrying with them that morning, a simple text will more than suffice.
Another thing to stress to them is to not tell anyone about their hiring a Private Investigator. Not their “best friend”, not their family, not even their Priest. No one. If you tell one person, you’ve told everyone. Because everyone has that “one” person they think they can trust to keep it to themselves but trust me, it will get out. So before the Subject finds out from someone else what is going on, tell your client to keep it a secret from everyone except you.
You Are A Private Investigator, Not Their Therapist – Remember that you have been hired to find out information on someone for the Client. Your job is to do your best to find this evidence for them and to present it to them as delicately as possible. While you should show them compassion, it does not mean that you should be expected to now be the one to help them through this situation long term. Always be respectful and understanding, but then you need to explain that your part is now done, collect the balance, and wish them well. It is too easy to become emotionally involved in some cases, but for your own mental health try to remember that you are hired to perform a service and not to become their therapist or confidant.
In our next blog, we will go into some tricks that we find very useful while doing surveillances, especially in the New York City area. So watch for the next one and stay safe.
Investigreat, LLC is a recognized full service Private Investigation Agency that is fully licensed, insured and bonded, handling cases all over Connecticut as well as Queens NY, Brooklyn NY, Bronx NY, New York City, Staten Island and Long Island NY. Terri, along with her husband Adam, have been working cases for Legal Teams, Insurance Companies, Private Businesses, Municipalities, School Systems and general investigation services for the public since 1992.
Investigreat, LLC | Private Investigators serving Connecticut, Long Island City, Jamaica NY, Brooklyn NY and Queens NY | Office Numbers: 860-899-1710 or 718-412-1845 | Text: 718-309-1269