Rural surveillance tips
If you (PI) have ever had to run surveillance in a rural area, you know how difficult it can be. Hopefully the following information can help you blend in better, and lower your chances of being caught. Everything I talk about is based on my own experiences, good and bad. I, like you have made mistakes and learned from them. Take my advice so if you are new to the scene, you don't make my past mistakes.
First thing, when speaking with the client inform him or her that the most ideal way to run rural surveillance is to have two investigators in separate vehicles. If they decline that option, be sure to let them know the possibility of being burned or losing the subject in the opposite direction due to the distance between your car and the subject's home.
If the client does approve two vehicles, that is great. One sets up a mile in one direction, the other sets up a mile in the other direction. Keep your vehicles as hidden as possible. Try not to keep them on the shoulder of the highway. If the shoulder is the only option, try to park it off the highway in the grass. Texting drivers can easily side swipe you in the shoulder.
I have also found a lot of property owners very accepting of my job title. Sometimes simply asking to sit on his or her driveway/property works. This can provide the most optimal concealment. When you do make contact with the property owner be prepared to show your credentials, and never give any information that might give the property owner a hint of who you might be following. EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYONE in rural areas! Just state that you are waiting for a certain vehicle to pass by and every so often you'll be coming and going. If he asks the nature of the case, I would say something like a child custody/cheating spouse even though its for a workers comp case. Give information that satisfies them, even though it's a lie. Remain as friendly as possible.
Also be sure to always log in with the local sheriffs office,especially if you are going to be parked on the side of the road. Also send a screen shot of location to a loved one, or co worker. Normally people have guns to protect their property from thieves, unwanted animals, and apparently private investigators. Remember, you are a good distance away from the local PD or sheriff. I normally have a weapon with me just in case, because in the past I have been shot at with a rifle,the bullet whizzed right past the windshield.
Now that you are logged in, in position and ready, here comes the subject. Before this time you should be familiar with how far the nearest city is, as well as its side roads. If the subject has 10 miles to get to the nearest city and drives the normal speed limit, give him time. Do not let him see your vehicle especially if your are hidden on a property. You can literally give him a 1 - 1.5 mile head start (distance depends on hills, straight aways, and winding roads). Clearly if its a winding road don't give him the whole 1.5, you'd be able to follow much closer without him noticing you. Hills...you can give him the 1.5 miles cause you'll have plenty of vantage points. Straight aways, you definitely want to give him the maximum amount of space. You want your car to remain as small as possible in his rear view mirror.
There are things you can do while tailing him to look like a different vehicle. For example, if you're behind him with your headlights off, keep them that way till you are far enough back to turn them on without the subject seeing it, also utilize cover vehicles. STAY UNRECOGNIZABLE!
Now when you do see the subject arrive to his or her destination you must continue to keep your car invisible. Try to avoid parking in the same lot as the subject. Record from the other side of the highway, or the next parking lot over (really depends on what the client wants). If you're on a workers comp claim, you might have to stay close. It would depend on where the subject arrives to. If he is at Mcdonalds getting food, it wouldn't be necessary to get close footage of that. But, if he just arrived to an outdoor tool sale, where he will be picking up heavy items. Get as close as possible, again it all depends on the clients desired results, and the type of case you're working.
These are just some tips to running a rural surveillance investigation. If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact us via phone, email, or social media. Good luck on your rural surveillance, stay safe, stay hidden, and get it all on camera!
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