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.
8 Hours w/ Adam Visnic P.I. from Gravitas Investigations
In our 8 Hours With series, we speak with leading private investigators and security professionals to learn more about what they do on a days’ worth of work. We reach out to them at hourly intervals to see how they spent the day and document their activities.
In this article, we look into the day of Adam Visnic P.I. – founder of Gravitas Investigations a licensed Private Investigator in Cincinnati, OH. He partners and integrates with business leaders, risk managers, claims analysts, and attorneys to tackle their investigative needs and challenges. He helps his clients capitalize on hidden opportunities. Once he integrates his team with his client’s departments, he’s able to equip them with the information necessary to make the right decisions and stay competitive.
With that introduction, let’s start up his 8-hour day: It’s actually more like 10 hours
6:00 AM – Up and at em.
I’ve got to be up before the rest of my family wakes up so I can get 30 minutes to an hour of work in before breakfast has to be made and the kids have to get dressed and get out the door.
I’ve worked from home or remotely for the past nine years, so I can just plop in front of a laptop and it’s off to the races.
Overnight, I’ll have received email updates from my team in TrackOps. So, I’ll review, edit, and send updates (with video footage) out to clients so that they can read them first thing. It’s crucial to communication, and for up-to-date intelligence, that they know what’s going on. I never wanna be behind the eight-ball.
More emails and checking feeds till I hear the pitter-patter of little feet. I have two sons, 4 and 3, and another one (a girl) on the way.
7:00 AM – Breakfast of Champions
Coffee, eggs/egg whites, and toast. Before I become Adam Visnic P.I., I’m Dad. My boys love peanut butter on graham crackers right now – that’s easy enough to make. But, I’ve been eating the same breakfast for that last decade. Steve Jobs wore black turtle necks every day to keep his decision-making power intact, I eat the same breakfast.
8:00 AM – Dad Van
I’m my kids’ personal chauffeur, so it’s off to either preschool or daycare.
8:30 AM – Back to work.
Sending out finalized reports and video footage, invoices, and updating financial spreadsheets.
I don’t personally do surveillance anymore. I haven’t for almost two years. I’ve contracted that out to a select group of PIs. Instead, I conducting preliminary investigations or Open Source Intelligence investigations.
Additionally, throughout the day and sometimes evenings, I’ll be receiving texts from investigators in the field who have questions on what to do on surveillance. Communication is key.
11:00 AM – Sales and Marketing
I’m in my Customer Relationship Management system (Cloze CRM) emailing or calling clients and prospective clients.
I’m also connecting with potential leads on LinkedIn and writing personalized messages.
12:00 PM – Lunch Time
Lunch with my wife, who now works from a home office due to COVID restrictions. This means for the past year I’ve been able to work in the same house with her. It’s legitimately been the best thing for us. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to having a successful business without her. Plus, she works in our cozy finished basement – she’s really living it up down there.
1:00 PM – Content Creation
This is where I’ll create my YouTube videos. Since, I’m going full-bore on YouTube (Adam Visnic, P.I.) as a way to show expertise, create a community of fellow private eyes, establish thought leadership, and market my business, I’ll be developing video scripts, filming footage, editing footage, and posting to multiple social media platforms across the whole week.
Then, I’ll funnel that into my email newsletter for a couple of hundred clients and fellow PIs to read and watch.
// Subscribe to my channel here: https://www.youtube.com/c/AdamVisnic
2:30 PM – Gotta pay the bills.
I’m a contract national security background investigator on the side, so when I need funds to “keep the lights on” and the cash flowing in, I’ll have a contract liaison assign me cases from one of seven different federal government agencies. If you’ve ever had a security clearance, you know the drill – subject interviews, record checks, transcript pulls, employment verifications, and reference interviews. Submit reports. Cash checks.
4:00 PM – Clear your head phase
I don’t know if a business owner ever really “clears their head,” (I’m always thinking about the biz) but if I don’t get a sweat going at some time in the day, I’m a disturbed man. I’m lucky to have a small gym in my basement with dumbbells, barbells, a pull-up bar, and a heavy bag. That, or it’s a 2-mile run through the neighborhood.
5:00 PM – Clock out.
This article was originally posted on the P.I. Feed. View it here.
So, you’re a private investigator on a stakeout. It’s a bright, sunny day. You’re in your car in a fixed surveillance position and your Subject somehow becomes aware of you. Did you get burned because of your window tint?
As a P.I. window tint is a must – it keeps you out of view from neighbors, onlookers, and of course, your Subject.
But, before slapping some on your windows, it’s important to know your state’s laws and general info.
Each state has laws for the front side, backside, rear windows, windshield, and reflectivity.
When you see data on window tint, you’ll see it categorized by percentage.
Rule of thumb: The lower the percentage, the DARKER the tint, and less sunlight can come into your car. The higher the percentage the lighter the tint and more sun can come in.
I went ahead and linked to the laws in all 50 states (click here)Here’s a handy little US map for the level of tint allowed from front side windows:
Let’s take Ohio and Kentucky for example, the states in which I’m licensed.
The front side window is at 35%. This means you can’t have a tint that allows less than 35% of the rays on your front side window.
It’s 18% on both the rear side and rear back windows. So you can go darker tint there.
The windshield tint allows that you can place a strip of tint to the top of the car manufacturer’s “AS-1” line.
The AS-1 line is a line extending from the AS-1, found on most motor vehicle windshields.
It runs parallel to the top of the windshield or at about 5 inches.
In Ohio, only 50% is allowed on front side windows.
But any level, even limo tint, is allowed on the rear side and rear back windows. So, we can go crazy there.
In Ohio, we can tint our front windshield to less than 70%.
My two cents: if you can, get your rear side and back windows as dark as possible.
Especially, if you have an SUV or minivan. When you add dark tint to the rear windows, they don’t seem to change the look of your car that much.
That’s because most factory-made large vehicles come with a high level of rear tint as it is.
But, if you can match the front and back window tint, I tend to go that route.
It’s visually appealing and it makes your car blend in well.
My cars also have had the 5” band across the top of the windshield.
Though some installers won’t put it there if you a “frit” band. Those tiny little dots around the edge of your windshield.
I avoid reflective tint, because it stands out – it doesn’t blend in too well.
I’m not against limo tint.
But if you’re parked for extended periods in your car in a suburban area, it might bring more attention than less.
When it comes to the law though, I actually could receive a fine for my tint.
I’d be willing to pay that fine.
In my 15 years of driving with “illegal” tint, I’ve never been pulled over and never been cited for it.
I chalk it up to that police officers aren’t looking to cite someone for window tint. It’s a minor offense and since so many already have it, it’s not worth it for them to stop me.
So, depending on how aggressive your local PD is, it’s up to you how “illegal” you want to tint your windows.
Also, some states allow exemptions. Under some state laws, private investigators can get exemptions on window tinting.
So check your local statutes and revised code for those details.
Quick Tint Tips
Even though you have window tint, the sun can shine through, exposing your silhouette.
#1 – Make sure you angle your car to avoid direct sun glare.
I always like to park with the sun at the back of my car if I can and not blasting through the front window.
In cold months, the sun is low and can do that to you.
#2 – Find some shade wherever you park.
When I find a stationary spot and park on the street, I usually try to park where there is an overhanging tree.
It doubles the effectiveness of your car’s tint.
#3 – I always have a front window shade to block out any sun coming in the front window and any onlookers.
I get shades that you can pop in and out quickly into your front windshield.
#4 – If you’re in a van or larger vehicle, sitting in the rear seats and using window curtains are huge too.
Passersby seem to only pay attention to who is in the driver’s seat and don’t notice people in the back seat.
Curtains block out any silhouette.
Also, some minivans come stock with mesh shades that pull up from the sliding door.
So you may not even need curtains on the side windows.
#5 – If you’re renting a vehicle and don’t want to use your own to save on mileage, I always ask for an SUV or minivan.
They come stock with factory-level rear side and back window shade.
The front windows aren’t tinted, but I assume I’ll be sitting in the rear of the vehicle anyways.
Over to you…
What percentage do you have in your windows?
Have you ever been given a ticket for illegal window tint?
Comment below. Let me know.
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.
The Reason You Got Burned: Driving By Too Slowly
So, you’re a private investigator on surveillance and you got burned and you don’t know why. Was it because you drove past your Subject’s house too slowly?
So, drive-by video. I learned this lesson early on in my career.
It became ingrained in my brain.
Because I was assigned to a two-person surveillance operation on workers’ compensation claimant in a rural area of Ohio. Like, we’re talking Amish country people. You’ve got horse and buggy, oxen plowing fields, and epic Amish beards.
But, the reason it was a two-man operation wasn’t that it was so rural, but because the previous investigative team (not from our firm) had been burned on it before.
So, our Claimant was already “heated up.”
And we knew why – the client had provided the previous report and video to us, so we knew what they had done wrong.
This Claimant lived on a country road, and the previous investigators had driven past the house too often, and, too slowly.
Eventually, the claimant, who had a residence with a huge bay window at the front of his house, caught on to the drive-bys.
I mean, he probably knew all his neighbors’ cars as it was, and seeing two cars he’d never seen before drive by every half-hour alerted him.
And this was all in the report – the claimant actually got into his own car and tailed the investigators out of the county.
Look, I get it. When you first get onsite to a residence, your natural inclination is to a good establishing shot. You wanna get a shot of the house, the layout, note the plates and vehicles on-site, on top of any action that might be going on.
But that doesn’t mean driving along the road at normal speeds and then all of sudden, dropping it down to a crawl to get some drive-by footage.
That’s a disaster in the making.
So, I’m here to help.
First, obviously, don’t ever drive by the house too slowly. There’s no reason for it.
When you do drive-bys, go at a normal speed every time. As if you were an average joe living in the area.
But when you’re shooting video, get the house in the frame early and pan left or right as you pass the house.
Also, while this is going on, zoom in at first and then zoom out wide as you pass by the house to frame everything up nicely.
It’ll take some practice to both stay on the road with one hand and pan and zoom with your camera hand.
The key is to keep it steady. Keep it level.
This isn’t shaky cam footage Jason Bourne.
If you wanna get really fancy you can get ahold of a window mount, one with a suction cup, and fix your camcorder or even a dash camera to the second-row window of your surveillance vehicle.
Press record, do the drive-by, and later edit out what’s unnecessary.
There’s a link below to a mount to get you started: https://amzn.to/2Yh1NWO
Second, especially in rural areas, limit your drive-bys to every hour or so.
You can certainly do drive-bys every half-hour, but only when you feel you need to.
Like if there have been multiple cars coming and going from the residential area, it’s lunchtime for the Claimant, or something similar.
And don’t just come back up the road in which you initially drove down. Give it time.
Driving by the house within a couple of minutes of each other is suspicious.
Instead, drive by the first time and “flank” back to your original surveillance position by going around the “block” assuming there’s another route to get to your original spot.
However, if the residence is in a hollow (like in Kentucky), like a no-outlet street, I’d limit my drive-bys to every two hours.
And, I know what you’re thinking – I could use drone footage or an unmanned surveillance camera hidden in a rock or safety cone to get static video.
Hold your horses, James Bond. That’s a video for another day.
For now, let’s just stick with the basics.
Third, hide your camera.
It may sound simple but what’s worked for me is to actually place my camera hand or monopod on the top of my left arm to stabilize and hide the camera.
I’ll do this if the residence is on my left side.
If the residence is on my right side, I’ll actually place my camera behind the passenger side headrest to get drive-by footage.
These simple methods help to prevent people from seeing my camera through my front windshield as I drive by.
This is me trying to be as casual as possible.
Lastly, and I can’t believe I have to say this but close your windows when filming drive-bys.
If you can’t get the footage because your windows are foggy or dirty, clean those things before getting onsite for crying out loud.
Overall, use the KISS method – keep it simple, stupid.
Drive by the residence like a normal person would (not too slowly!), limit drive-bys to every hour, hide your camera, and keep your windows up.
And, just in case you were wondering. Even with the knowledge of the previous investigation, we still couldn’t get much of anything on that Claimant in rural Ohio. But, at least he didn’t tail us.
Anybody wanna volunteer to take that case??
Over to you…
What ways can you prevent from getting burned?
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.