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.