The Rockford Files may have been a fictional TV series set in the 70s about the private eye, Jim Rockford, but it was dang good. One of the most popular shows of that era.
And, even though it aired before my time (I’m an 80s kid), there are some truth bombs about the P.I. industry that still hold water today.
Watch the video below to get my take on this 70s modern detective.
And, if you enjoyed that video, check out the last video in the “How to Investigate Like” series with COLUMBO (click here)
By the way, I love this show. I actually did not grow up on this show. For me, I loved the show the moment I heard the theme song. It’s awesome. In the handful of episodes I’ve watched, this show is a great time capsule.
Back in a time was when computers and social media weren’t a thing, you had to look “private detective” up in the Yellow Pages and make a phone call to him or visit him in person.
As soon as you start watching the show, you immediately fall into a time warp back to the 70s.
The Reason You Got Burned: Following Too Closely
Have you ever had your Subject look in the rearview mirror at you?
Slow down on the highway?
Do a U-turn right in front of you?
You might be burned and it may have been because you were tailing your Subject too closely.
As a disclaimer, if you’re not licensed as a private investigator, please don’t go out and start following people. Just cause you watched this, doesn’t give you the right to tail someone. Serious consequences will follow if you get caught.
Additionally, this is for training and practice purposes only – just use it for entertainment.
Watch the video above for details on how to follow your Subject on surveillance.
The Four Big Takeaways
First, use a buffer car. Avoiding your Subject’s ability to see your car’s profile in their rearview mirror is huge. A buffer car is a car between you and your Subject. Use them whenever you can.
Second, to avoid staying behind or getting too close, use other lanes. And then circle back as I did.
Third, don’t stop unnecessarily just because they did. The guy pulled a u-turn, and just parked in front of his house. The temptation was to stop, capture some video, and perhaps make it obvious that he’s being followed. Instead, I proceeded onward, knowing he was parking and allowed him to exit out of view.
Fourth, know your map. Have a GPS or your phone mounted on your dash up so you know the lay of the land. Is your Subject turning down a no-outlet street? Getting near the highway? Heading back home? You’ll need to know in advance, and knowing the roads in your city and state is a must.
Over to You…
What ways have avoided getting burned on mobile surveillance?
What methods have worked for you?
Comment below. Let me know.
If you’ve ever done surveillance, many times it’s not the Subject who ends up burning you – it’s the neighbors.
In this post, let’s talk about:
Legal disclaimer. Never construe anything I say to be legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. Also, personal disclaimer: you don’t have to believe a damn word I say. You should have your own opinions on how to conduct surveillance and never rely on mine.
Surveillance is an art form.
And I’ll back up anyone who copies or steals my ideas. Go for it!
But start to develop your way of doing things.
I made these posts and videos for my investigators, the ones who work for me. It’s training for them. But if you gather any value, knowledge, or like the content, keep reading.
You’re out on surveillance, parked in a perfect spot, staking out your Subject. You’re in a tinted-out vehicle, maybe sitting in the back, maybe in the front. But you’re parked in front of one of your Subject’s neighbor’s houses. After a few hours, a resident runs out of the house and knocks on your window.
Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do??!?
Well, it’s easy to get hostile. The neighbor might already be that way. But, I’m of the mind to never get confrontational or power-hungry with neighbors. Again,
You get more flies with honey, not vinegar.
As we’ve said in previous posts and videos about notifying the police, be cordial and respectful. With neighbors though, the goal is to use some “verbal judo” on them. Use a ruse or guise, to get them to go away and leave them thinking nothing of it.
But, be nice and respectful. Avoid saying “mind your own business,” because you know they won’t. It’s their neighborhood after all, and magnifying things could lead down a bad road. The exact pretense can be up to you. There are countless ones you could use.
First…never impersonate an officer of the law. This should be in all of your licensing bylaws as it is. We in OH and KY cannot carry a badge, because a person could interpret it as a police badge.
Successful (and legal) Pretexts
In rural areas, I’ll say I’m a contractor for a trucking company. With an “official” clipboard in hand, I’ll look the neighbor straight in the eye, and say I’ve been hired to look for semis that have used this route against our company policy. We’re getting noise complaints from ones using their engine brake. And then ask the neighbor if they’ve heard any loud semis.
Putting the question back on them takes them by surprise. You’ll not only see people believe the ruse but say that they’ve heard loud engines before – chances are they actually have. People want to believe and if you appear harmless, they’ll tend to agree. Then assure them that the police know you’re in the area and you should be there the whole day and a few days in the future
In other situations, I’ll say I’m a private investigator, but never let on exactly what I’m doing.
I’ll change the story up and say it’s a confidential matter but the term we use is it’s a domestic case. Make sure they don’t think it’s their next-door neighbors, but someone way a few blocks away and they might pass by this spot. Let them fill in the blanks with their imagination on who it is. A lot of times they’ll play detective themselves and think it’s such and such who had an affair years ago…
Again, assure them, the cops know you’re there, and there’s no need for alarm.
A big key is to be ready for any situation. A dead giveaway is if you start stuttering over your words and avoiding eye contact.
Make the story believable.
Additionally, park on public property. I’ve had two cops allude to criminal trespassing charges because I was on private property.
But I’ll always park on the public street or the easement and never on private property unless I can help it.
The last thing we want is to get the whole neighborhood heated up and then let on to the Subject. We’ve all heard horror stories with the Next Door app or your neighborhood’s Facebook group.
And with these pretexts, use your creativity here… come up with something unique to the situation and have it ready. If I’m in a construction area or downtown, I’ll get a hard hat and safety vest. Put it in the front window. There’s always construction going on downtown. You’ll fit in.
Play the part. Have a little fun with it.
What ways can you play the part?
What pretexts have worked for you?
Comment below and let me know.
I’m a private investigator and I need a new car.
But, I hate car shopping.
So, I asked my fellow bloggers and auto junkies at Jalopnik, “What Car Should I Buy?”
It’s a weekly segment they do: these dudes (NOT SALESMEN) help REAL people find ACTUAL vehicles for sale.
And then they hilariously write about it.
Check out their advice for me.
“Adam is a private investigator who spends hours behind the wheel getting the scoop and tracking bad guys. He needs a ride that is good for work and family, something that can blend in but still looks professional. What car should he buy?
Unlike Magnum P.I., Adam doesn’t work in Hawaii, and for him to nab the bad guys, stealth, patience, and diligence are key. Therefore, he needs one that he can spend a lot of time in, but won’t be noticed easily.
Here is the scenario:
I’m a private investigator and business owner who needs both a surveillance vehicle for tracking down bad guys out in the field, but one that also doubles as respectable business owner’s ride for when I pull up to sales calls and client meetings. My current SUV (a 2006 GMC Envoy Denali) is at 200,000 miles and like any one at that mileage, needs to be replaced.
I’ve got a budget of about $20,000 and the biggest thing is this car must be unremarkable. It’s got to blend in. No sports cars, nothing weird or funky. Also, in addition to hauling my gear, I use the car to tote my family around to events and such so it needs to be practical as well.”
Tell me which one I should BUY in the COMMENTS below!!
Click here to read the full story: http://jalopnik.com/im-a-private-eye-looking-for-a-stealthy-ride-for-20-00-1793549299
Which one should I buy? Reply in the comments!
Learning from failure. If you go to the recovery room at the hospital, you’ll see a lot more people with gunshot wounds in their legs than in their chests. But that’s not because people don’t get shot in the chest; it’s because the people who get shot in the chest don’t recover.
As private investigators and business owners, there’s an important parallel: Autopsies done on the patients who made it back to the ER aren’t worth as much as those who never made it back. Likewise, learning from successful companies may not be as important as learning from failed private investigator firms. Understanding what fatal mistakes led to the failure is as important, if not more, than what made successful companies great.
So, what are those mistakes? How did specific PI companies go out of business? And more importantly, what can we learn from those mistakes?
For valuable insight on this topic, we polled private investigators from across the nation for insight into how their colleagues had failed, or, how they had failed and learned. Nearly a dozen PIs chimed in to help. And, though the resulting stories may be grim, they are telling.
Here are some of the insights they shared, along with a few of my own:
In 2015, I opened the doors to Gravitas Investigations, a Cincinnati-based private investigations firm.
But why did I start this company?
Sure, I’ve been a “private eye” for over 10 years and have solved some incredible cases, but that’s not why I do it.
The truth is that this company was started many years ago, based on the influence of two important people. Here’s that story: Read more