Surveillance Investigators (SI) work in various organizations. Specific responsibilities and duties will differ, but at the core there are many core tasks related to the job. If properly trained and equipped, SI’s can perform a number of duties while working for their clients. When assigned a surveillance case, surveillance investigators consult the client on the case of goals and specific investigation needs to further define the case.
Duties and Responsibilities professional surveillance investigators may perform many different investigative tasks. These may include surveillance and video/audio recording, interviewing witnesses, tracking and/or monitoring the subjects vehicle and credit history, handwriting and other indicators of the subjects of criminal activity, or any combination thereof. Duties and responsibilities will vary depending on the type of case and the surveillance situation. In some instances, surveillance may involve monitoring employees such as cashier’s, etc. where a supervisor may have overall supervision or direction of the surveillance activities.
The primary goal of all investigations is to gather evidence that helps in the determination of guilt or innocence of a suspect. Depending on the nature of the case and the location, detectives may need to interview potential witnesses, collect documents, etc., to build a strong case against the suspect. Surveillance Investigators are responsible for conducting thorough investigations that are ethical, legally appropriate and sensitive to the ongoing case. Without good investigators, there is no way that law enforcement officials can properly investigate crimes. As such, surveillance investigators are absolutely crucial to the effective and efficient conduct of all law enforcement investigations.
Background Checks Typically, surveillance investigators perform background checks prior to interviewing individuals as part of the hiring process. This allows law enforcement agencies to make sure that the individuals they are hiring are trustworthy, reliable and accurate. Some of the reasons why private investigators perform background checks include civil and criminal background checks. For example, if an individual has been arrested for a DWI offense, the individual’s background check would reveal that the individual has a history of alcohol/drug abuse and other criminal offenses.
Fingerprinting and Identification One of the most important duties of a private investigation investigator is fingerprinting. Fingerprinting occurs when an investigator “fingerprints” a suspect in order to positively identify them. A fingerprint is created by pressing a finger or hand onto a piece of paper or other material. Based on the unique markings left by the finger, a private investigator can positively identify the subject of an investigation. Private investigators also use identification techniques, such as voice recognition technology and other methods, to positively identify subjects.
Communication Skills Most investigators need excellent communication skills in order to adequately perform their job. Effective communication skills are essential not only in completing surveillance investigations but also in conducting subsequent communications with individuals that are being investigated. Determining whether a tip provided by a surveillance investigator was consistent with what was expected and necessary from the subject is a critical component of the investigation process.
Video Equipment It is important for surveillance investigators to have access to video equipment. These tools enable investigators to monitor subjects and gather additional information. Specifically, video footage allows an investigator to determine whether the location that a subject has been described is consistent with the video equipment captured at the location. Additionally, investigators use video equipment to monitor individuals who have been detained and are unable to talk. The use of video equipment is necessary in determining whether the reason for the detention is reasonable.
In addition to having the tools and equipment necessary to conduct surveillance investigations, many private investigators need effective written communication skills. Good oral and written communication skills are necessary to ensure that you and the subject discussed the information contained in the reports, which are often highly detailed in nature. It is important for private investigators to remember that what you say to a subject remains their property. Therefore, it is essential that written communications are clearly understood and signed. Additionally, effective verbal communications are critical to ensure that investigations follow all legal procedures.