Surveillance is defined as “close watch kept over someone or something (as by a detective).” Surveillance may be undertaken by police, intelligence organizations, or even in the military.
Surveillance on foot is sometimes called dismounted surveillance, in comparison to surveillance in a vehicle which may be called mounted or mobile surveillance.
The goal of surveillance is to collect information in order to further a goal, and should always be done in accordance with the law.
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Before you begin surveillance it’s important to develop a cover story. This is a plausible reason for what you’re doing in the area that you are found, in case you get stopped by police or other security personnel.
A cover story for foot surveillance may be that you’re headed to a specific destination on foot, while mobile surveillance can include a variety of other scenarios related to employment or personal life.
Stationary or static surveillance is the use of video cameras or other techniques in order to record an individual without the active use of individuals beyond what it takes to place the device in the location.
Foot surveillance is performed by individuals who watch others, sometimes with the use of a body-camera. While following an individual, you should aim to stay a fair distance behind an individual. It’s also important to seek cover behind buildings, parked vehicles, or blend into groups of pedestrians.
Vehicle surveillance can be performed by a single vehicle but is usually performed with a team of three or four. These individuals form an ABC triangle around the individual being surveilled.
In a very large or complex surveillance operation there will be multiple sets of agents performing the surveillance which means that it’s impossible to identify them or break out of the surveillance.
There are at minimum three vehicles in use
- Command Vehicle – This is the vehicle that maintains visual contact with the individual under surveillance and is usually behind the vehicle in order to update the other members of the team.
- Backup Vehicle – The backup vehicle is switched out at times with the command vehicle in order to decrease the chances that the command vehicle gets “made” or discovered.
- Advance Vehicle – The advance vehicle is usually ahead of the command vehicle (and the individual under surveillance), to warn of upcoming hazards and.
- Outrider Vehicle – In addition to the three main vehicle, outrider vehicles will patrol the perimeter to make sure the target does not escape the box, and will also switch out with the other vehicles in order to make sure the subject does not escape surveillance
Counter-surveillance involves looking for patterns. The quote ” Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action” illustrates this well. You may notice before getting into your vehicle that you are surrounded by four others (at least one in each direction.) This is because the surveillance team wants to be prepared to follow you whichever way you take.
Unfortunately for them, that also means that you can identify them by taking notes of a vehicle that has suddenly started moving as soon as you have.
- Warrior Publications: Surveillance and Countersurveillance
- FM 19-20 Investigative Process, Chapter 2: Surveillance, Undercover and Task Force Operations
- Public Safety Intelligence Operations Certificate, Perform Foot Surveillance