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Mobile Surveillance Techniques

Surveillance is the systematic observation of a person or place. Surveillance techniques can either be stationary or mobile. In the case of mobile surveillance, the target, who is the focus of the observations, is followed either on foot or in a vehicle by the operative. Surveillance is normally carried out without the knowledge of those being watched. A number of different surveillance techniques may be used to accurately determine and document the target’s movements by means of photographs, personal observation or video.


The operative should become familiar with areas that the target is believed to frequent. This gives the operative the opportunity to source suitable surveillance locations to park while the target is at specific addresses. This is also the time to become familiar with all possible avenues that the target may use when leaving the building.

Choosing the Correct Vehicle

A white vehicle is normally considered the most unobtrusive. White is also a common color and blends in with most of the other vehicles on the road. A van is preferable, because the observer is more secluded in the back, which is the ideal place to set up any equipment that will be required for the surveillance. Regardless of how neutral the vehicle is meant to appear, if the target becomes aware or suspicious of the vehicle, it will have to be immediately exchanged for another. In this case, a totally different make and color of vehicle will be required.

Vehicle Surveillance

When tailing a target in the country, the operative needs to keep a fair distance, so as not to be seen. When traveling around curves, the operative can close the distance, but will need to back off again on long and straight sections of road. The operative will always need to maintain eye contact with the target’s vehicle, to prevent losing the person, should he turn off from the main road. Trailing a target in the city requires the operative to remain much closer because of heavy traffic and traffic lights. The golden rule of operatives, which is “Never take your eyes off the target,” is most appropriate in the busy streets of a big city. In streets with numerous traffic lights, the operative might need to tailgate the target’s car. In the event that both target and operative have been stopped by a traffic light, with a vehicle between their two cars, the operative should leave sufficient space between her vehicle and the car in front to go around, should the front car stall.

Surveillance on Foot

At any given point, the target may choose to leave his vehicle and create a diversion by walking or by taking a cab, train or bus. The target may also leave his vehicle to meet with someone. The operative will then continue surveillance on foot, which is normally referred to as shadowing. When following a target down a long street that is not busy, the operative will need to give the target a much bigger lead than would be the case on a very busy city street. The lead should always be shortened at a street corner though to prevent the target disappearing into a shop, unseen. Foot surveillance may require the services of two operatives, in the event that a target climbs into the vehicle of another person, who has been waiting to collect him. In such instances, the second operative remains in her vehicle and continues to follow the target after receiving instructions via a portable radio from the first operative.


Virtually growing up in a computer repair shop, Naomi Bolton has held a passion for as long as she can remember. After earning a diploma through a four year course in graphic design from Cibap College, Bolton launched her own photography business. Her work has been featured on Blinklist, Gameramble and many others.