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Fixed Surveillance or Stakeout

Fixed surveillance is better known as a “stakeout,” where investigators or officers will observe suspects from a distance for as long as it takes to acquire the evidence needed. Stakeouts are often paired with vehicle surveillance, where an investigator will follow the suspect or suspects around in a car, seeing where they go and what they do in their vehicles. Often once the investigator has determined a place where the suspect often goes, they will set up a stakeout in the place to see exactly what it is they do there.

The Art of Stakeout

The art of the stakeout is a subtle and complex one. Many people do not think about the things that are normal to see in public until they see someone behaving in a suspicious manner. Often times the suspicious behavior in question isn’t even a blatant one, but just a feeling that people get that something is unnatural. It is important to not even trigger those suspicious feelings in the suspect when staking them out. It is important to blend in. A new, shiny car parked in a row of older, dirty cars will definitely arouse suspicion equally as much as an average car parked on a street that has no other cars along it. Standing on a busy city street is just extraordinary enough to arouse suspicion, especially when the suspect is already nervous about the crime they are committing, or will commit.

Good Research is Key

Learn the area you are going to be staking out. Pay attention to where locals congregate and how they act – this is extremely important for blending in later when you possibly need to be there all day. If you have to, pack several changes of clothes for a variety of occasions – a swimsuit for the beach, a fancy dress or suit for a nice restaurant, or simply two or three different casual outfits to better disappear into the crowds. People can recognize an outfit they’ve seen that day even if it was hours ago, and that may be enough to get you busted if the suspect is particularly paranoid.

Working with a Partner

One step that can make or break a stakeout is to have a partner stake out the suspect with you. In a stakeout, it is imperative that someone have eyes on the suspect at all times, and this is extremely difficult to accomplish with only a single investigator, even a diligent one. Two pairs of eyes are better than one when watching for suspicious activity, and for long stakeouts investigators can trade shifts so that one can rest while the other watches.

Choose a Good Cover Story

Each investigator involved in the stakeout needs a cover story. A nosey neighbor, security officer, store employee, or simply someone in the crowd who has noticed you having been in one area for a while may ask you what you are doing ,and you need to come up with a satisfactory answer for them. In addition to a believable story, it may be a good idea to bring along a few props, such as a dog to walk (or just the leash; your dog ran away and you are looking for it,) business or realtor cards, or ask a friend or colleague to be ready to meet up with you if you need them to make it seem like you were waiting for them. Be aware however that people who live in the same community often recognize the people who live nearby them.

Stakeout Equipment

The most important part of a stakeout is of course the collection of data and evidence on your subject. If you do not have some way to record information, your stakeout is all but worthless. Voice recorders, hidden cameras, and written notes are all ways that you can record what is happening around you, and the area where you are. Taking note of house numbers, license plates on vehicles, and quick descriptions of any contacts your subject may have is important. If suspicion is aroused, it may be prudent to end the day’s investigation, or to pick it up elsewhere. You never know if the old lady next door is a friend or accomplice of your suspect and it is best not to make them suspicious of you if you don’t have to.

For questions about fixed surveillance contact Tim Wilson Investigations.


Call today for immediate professional investigations.

Houston Investigations:  (713) 956-1111
Toll Free:  1 (800) 820-7006


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