In today’s age of gadgets and gizmos, the days of private detectives hiding behind a newspaper or spying on people through a magnifying glass are long gone!
Instead this has been replaced with a vast array of surveillance equipment, some of which can go completely undetected by the untrained eye. But which equipment is best?
Here are what I think are the 5 pieces of equipment essential to a modern day private investigator.
A Smart Phone
Absolutely no doubt on this one. This is the top one of the 5 essential pieces of equipment that is used beyond all others.
We use smart phones to do the quick last-minute research into a subject, scour Google Maps for road and foot routes in and out of buildings and to verify vehicle details.
Not forgetting of course, we excessively use WhatsApp for its high levels of encryption to communicate between the teams. Walk around Mayfair during the week and look out for people stood around with their phone connected to a power bank, most probably a surveillance operator or private detective!
In today’s climate of technology and communications a private investigator that doesn’t effectively (and this is the key word) use their smart phone, then in my opinion they are providing a poor service.
Working remotely from a car and spending quite a few nights in hotels, a laptop is just crucial when it comes to writing our surveillance logs, surveillance reports and editing video footage.
These tasks aren’t the most exciting part of the job but are just as fundamental as the actual surveillance follows. If we can’t effectively showcase our work then the nitty gritty surveillance is a complete waste of time.
Most of our work is also time sensitive too. There can’t be any delay in delivering our reports and footage, so a lot of the time getting back to the office to a desktop is just a complete pipe dream. We aim to deliver our reports and footage within 48 hours of the surveillance being completed so when we bounce job to job then a laptop is essential!
The Sony FDR-AX53 4K Camcorder
This is the go-to video camera for most private detectives operating in the insurance fraud type of work. It is easy to use and very reasonably priced.
The camera is brilliant in low light scenarios and the way the camera lens is steadied with Sony’s SteadyShot is just incredible. Tracking a moving subject looks flawless even in a beginner’s hand. The main benefit that Sony offer over Panasonic video cameras for me is the remote accessories. Having the setup of the camera mounted with a wired remote and connected to a small screen enables private detectives to be completely covert and not need to directly see what they’re going to video.
Possibly the most intriguing for those not working in the industry. But we can’t be covert and sneaky beaky without some type of spy cameras. If you go onto eBay and search for spy camera you will be inundated with cameras hidden in everyday items such as pens, coat hooks, power banks and even clocks.
Now we don’t buy our equipment from eBay (too often..) but you get the idea.
These small discreet devices allow us to record video in shops, bars and to capture phone conversations on the train. Always try and remember, if you’re in the public domain you are fair game.
These devices, if used in the proper way, give us the best evidence and is what sets us apart from the amateurs who will go out and try to use their phone discreetly. We can hide covert cameras almost anywhere! The main limitation these days is our imagination, I won’t give away too many secrets but in recent years a lot of daytime TV shows use these devices to get the money shot, often whilst in cars or in meetings.
I have worked in teams of over 20 surveillance operatives and without radio equipment it would be completely impossible!
We use a varying range of radio equipment each having their own pros and cons.
UHF and VHF type radios (the big bulky ones Asda security typically use) are brilliant when working closely together but as soon as you get some distance from each other they become useless. These radios come into their own when working in the London Underground because a team can still effectively communicate down in the tunnels where internet signal from cell towers just can’t reach.
Working ‘up north’ in the Midlands though the go-to radios are called ‘Network Radios’ and these work over 3G and 4G phone signals. Using an app called Zello we can communicate securely within our own easy to make channels and so long as there is 3G/4G signal we have unlimited range communications.
I hope this has given you a small insight into the world of a private investigator. If you’re considering hiring one always have the confidence to ask the right questions regarding their equipment. If this is a concern of yours just check that they have these 5 pieces of essential equipment.
Bear in mind, that this equipment is all well and good, but it needs to be in the hands of a capable surveillance operative!
What I mean by this is someone who has completed an accredited and industry leading training course. We at Delta 74 Private Investigations recommend Titan Private Investigations and their training courses.
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As always, thanks for reading!