Top 10 Tips How Succeed in Surveillance Investigation

You may have considered becoming a surveillance operator within the Private Investigation industry but are unsure of the steps needed to take to make it happen? How to Succeed in SurveillanceHow do you turn a concept into a career? Would it be helpful to have a list of top tips from people that have had the same thoughts as you? Do you want our Top 10 Tips How To Succeed In Surveillance? We have numerous people get in touch with us and ask if they can become a surveillance operator and how to go about it? The list of questions they have is almost endless but here are some frequently asked questions, in no particular order.

  1. Is there much work out there?
  2. What is the money like?
  3. How do you get work?
  4. Is the equipment expensive?
  5. What training do I need?
  6. Which training provider should I use?
  7. How do I network?
  8. Do I have to be ex Military or Police?

Top 10 Tips How To Succeed In Surveillance 

These are our Top 10 Tips to Succeed in Surveillance. Ours, not yours, ours! You may disagree and that is absolutely fine, please let us know by commenting in a professional manner. Perhaps list your own so that others can learn from your own personal pearls of wisdom? We can all learn from listening to other people’s opinions after all.

Service Leavers’

As a service leaver with 24 years service I think I am qualified to offer this from the perspective of someone that has served. Surveillance, Private Investigations, Close Protection – the security industry in general is an obvious choice for many of us but there is more to it than that of course. Do not think that because you have served you are ‘in’. It does not and nor should it.

I do not have any Military or Police experience…

Do not let this put you off, it is a common misnomer that you have to be ex Military or former Police Service to be successful, you absolutely do not have to have either of these backgrounds in order to succeed as a commercial surveillance operator. In some cases it may help you, in others it may hinder you.

1 Surveillance Training Providers

Chose wisely, service leaver or not please chose wisely as training courses are not cheap at all. Many people complain that the training providers have ruined the circuit; absolute codswallop. It is up to YOU to select the training provider that you feel is best for you! No training provider can force you on a course, only you can commit. Ask questions, find others who have completed to course; do not fall for clever marketing…”We employ the best students from the course” “all of our trainees get a guaranteed interview upon completion of our course” “we will give you work” IT MEANS NOTHING, DO NOT BELIEVE THIS B/S.

2 Networking

Security Industry NetworkingQuite possibly the most critical part if you want to succeed as a surveillance operator, get it wrong and you may be well and truly done for before you start.

We’ll expand in a future blog about networking as it is difficult to summarise such a vast subject but you must pay it considerable attention or expect little or no call for your services.

For any ex Military or Police reading this, it is worth noting that life is very different to that which you have been used to; let someone down and word travels very fast, one mistake, especially at the beginning can be career ending.

 3 Types of Work

PI-300x223Matrimonial Investigation – Don’t ever knock these types of investigations, they can be extremely challenging and test the most seasoned surveillance operator to their limits. Many of the these tasks are carried out ‘single handed’ which is not something that we endorse, however in most cases this is budget driven and may be the only option. Take this work in the first phases of your career and you will benefit from doing so.

You should expect to work for a Private Investigator who may have surveillance tasks which they cannot cover themselves, alternatively they may need some additional manpower on certain jobs where the budget is greater.  Some Private Investigators have work with insurance companies, they may also carry out assignments for solicitors and local businesses, conducting various forms of commercial surveillance for them.  Our Private Investigator Durham office covers the North East and at times we are stretched to the limits. We will never use anyone who we have not taken through a set training package, regardless of experience, formal or otherwise.

There are far too many people out there who refuse to see the point of taking short-term tasks, the ones that only last 4 hrs. Take them or regret it. Taking tasks such as these will allow you to make an impression upon fellow operators and from there it can all take off.

4 Employed or Self-Employed?

The reality; very few businesses employ FULL time surveillance operators / investigators and those that are employed on a full time basis generally earn a very basic wage and work extremely long hours for it.  To that end, most investigators are self-employed and as such the first course of action is to register as self employed with HMRC, this way you can take on surveillance investigation tasks as they come in for a variety of people within your network.  It takes minutes to register and without doing this you will not be in a position to take on assignments as and when they come in.

5 Data Protection

As a self employed surveillance investigator you MUST register as a Private Investigator to become a ‘data controller’ with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) at a cost of £35.00 per year.  We have spent a lot of time getting our heads around the act, it is not difficult.  Indeed the ICO have been extremely helpful and settled many age old debates for us and are happy to put their words in writing!

6 Data Processor or Data Controller

As an ‘autonomous’ self employed surveillance (Private Investigator) who is instructed to obtain personal data of a subject in whatever form i.e. video footage of photographs by law MUST be registered as a Data Controller.  ANYONE who disagrees with this should speak to the ICO direct.

Any professional business will intimately understand the DPA and its complexities, have robust systems in place and ask for a copy of your registration certificate.

7 Website

Get one. You don’t need to spend a lot but you will require a web presence in order to grow your business. Get one that you can make changes to yourself, a WordPress one for example. You’ll also need other marketing material such as business cards. A small investment but an absolute must.

8 Equipment

Succeed In SurveillanceIf you really want to succeed in surveillance investigation you’ll have to invest, end of.

If you are employed your employer should provide you with a certain level of equipment (but not in all cases).  As a self employed Private Investigator you will definitely need your own equipment; you’ll also need to build in a good amount of redundancy!

  1. Communications; Vehicle & covert foot/body.
  2. Video Camera x 2.
  3. Handheld covert video camera.
  4. Stills camera (Ideally DSLR) with the fastest possible lens you can afford.

Your vehicle should be fitted out so that you can obtain static and mobile COVERT video footage, independently powered and comfortably spend a full 12hr day inside without leaving to visit the toilet! We could, and will, write a full blog(s) on equipment but to summarise an initial budget of £3k should suffice but that does not include the price of a suitable vehicle.

9 Professionalism

As a surveillance investigator you maybe given personal and at times sensitive information relating to a subject of the investigation.  You could be expected to carry out your own Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) or it may be provided for you but either way you will be required to secure this information in a professional manner in accordance with the DPA.  You could also be expected to edit video, produce DVD’s, enhance images and send data securely.  To succeed in surveillance you must be able to keep up to date with new technology and the legislation that affects the industry whilst managing clients and finances.  Whilst on a surveillance investigation the basics should never be compromised; clean windows, charged batteries, backup camera, tapes, SD cards, power, full fuel tank…this list is endless!  One slip up and your professionalism will be brought into question and your work in the future will suffer.

10 Honesty

Slip ups happen and they happen to everyone at some stage; those who say that they do not have either never been on the ground or they are lying to you!  Are you the type of person who is going to make an excuse (lie) or hold your hands up and be honest? Will you arrive on target and leave on time? Are you where you say you are? Have you worked the hours and driven the miles you are charging for? There maybe times when you find out who the client is, can you be trusted ‘not’ to make an approach direct? These are the types of questions that will crop up when trust is brought into question.  All commercial or Private Investigators are required to have a huge amount of trust placed in them, mess it up and you wont get a second call, that much we can guarantee you!

Success in Surveillance Investigations

The job of a surveillance operator in the UK can be rewarding and the money can be excellent. In order to succeed in surveillance those who are prepared to turn out for the small jobs, are reliable, professional and honest; putting in 100% every time will soon find themselves climbing the ladder and eventually working for the bigger companies on good money and very interesting work not only in the UK but Europe and beyond!



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how to succeed in surveillance

The principal investigator of Lateo Surveillance Ltd is a full member of The Association of British Investigators endorsed by the Law Society of England & Wales. Thank you for reading our latest post How to Succeed in Surveillance