Let’s talk about how you could get burned by failing to properly notify the local police while on surveillance.
This topic is gonna get some people talking from both sides.
Should you notify the local law enforcement prior to starting surveillance, or should you not?
I’ve never come to a consensus on this topic – everyone has their own beliefs.
And that’s okay.
But the underlying issue is that the last thing I’d want a P.I. to have happen to them is that they’ll be sitting out on surveillance minding their own business, and all of sudden a cop comes rolling in behind them and blows the surveillance.
Maybe, as the cops are taking down your info or verifying your license, the Subject leaves.
Not only do they see your “suspicious” car with a cop behind it, now mentally taking a note of your car, but now you can’t follow them.
Or the neighbors know you’re in the area because of the cop, and they post a picture or comment about you being in the area on a local Facebook group or the Next Door app.
And the next thing you know, you’re burned.
I’ve had cops roll up on me all the time while on was on surveillance, even when I called them beforehand, but luckily never while my Subject left.
But, I’ve seen it happen.
My standard policy is to call local law enforcement beforehand.
I like the idea that I can keep the police department away from my position by simply providing the dispatcher all my pertinent information, like the make and model of my car, my name, and my vehicle’s license plate number.
I typically will say something like, “Hi, this Adam Visnic, I’m a licensed private investigator, conducting surveillance in the area.”
And, just to make sure this is indeed their jurisdiction, I’ll give them a nearby address, not the Subject’s address (ever), and ask if that’s their jurisdiction.
If they say it’s theirs, I’ll tell them generalities about how long I’ll be there that day and 100% get their dispatcher ID or name.
It’s always good to have that for reference because if a cop rolls up, you can state exactly who you talked to at their office.
If it’s not, ask them who you should call.
That should do it.
I’m of the mindset that you get more flies with honey rather than vinegar and try to put a good phone voice on for them.
I wouldn’t want to pull the old “mind your business” card and tick them off.
Especially now, I just don’t want to give them a reason to check on me.
You might expect a drive-by of a cop and sometimes a quick glance or wave, but hopefully, that’s it.
On the other side of the aisle, I also understand why you wouldn’t notify cops.
They might know why you’re in the area. Maybe in a rural area or any small town, the local LEOs are related to your Subject or they hang out with them and are friends.
Or they know everyone, and they’re pissed you’re in the area on their turf.
I can count on one hand, in the dozens and dozens of cops I’ve spoken to that were legit A+ assholes.
But, many of the PIs who are watching this were former police and were never that way.
99% are nice and understanding of our job.
Some do just have it out for us, and I do know a lot of PIs who have a grievance against talking with cops.
I’ve had one cop total ask me to step out of the car, and frisk me, because I didn’t call them beforehand. One in 10 years.
So at the end of the day, it’s really up to you.
If you do interact with a cop, be cordial and respectful as always.
If you’re carrying a concealed weapon, let them know ASAP.
And, trade business cards with them just so you know with who you had contact.
Leave them with a good taste in their mouth, because there is a chance you’ll be out there again.
As a rule, I’ll never tell the cops if they ask, who I’m watching. I’ll say instead of let’s say a workers’ comp case, it’ll become a cheating spouse case in the area.
If they get fussy, I’ll say simply (deep sigh) “I wish I could, but the case is backed by the attorney-client privilege. I promise I’d divulge that If I could.”
Over to you…
What do you do on surveillance?
Call the local police or not?
Comment below and let me know.