Covert investigations 3: covert surveillance setup
Ready to catch your bad guy in the act? Investigations manager Brandon Gregg on how to put the right surveillance equipment in the right place.
By Brandon Gregg
July 12, 2010 — CSO —
With our new low lux camera and high resolution, 30 fps DVR delivered to the office after reading Covert investigations: cameras and recording devices, it's time to catch our finger-painting bad guy who is still targeting the late night halls of the corporate office.
Although everything about your new camera and DVR looks plug and play like the website promises, that statement from your vendor is far from the truth. The time you have spent investigating your case and the money you just laid down on equipment could be washed away with your hard work faster than the frames per second in your DVR with the wrong setup. Not only can tipping off a subject occur, but your covert recording could lead to possible litigation and/or criminal charges for yourself due to improper covert recordings.
The setup of your covert equipment is a fragile part of the investigation that too many people rush during a panic to catch their subject. Like your selection of a covert camera and DVR, the setup of a covert installation has steps to follow as well:
- Plan Install
- Get Under An Umbrella
- Final Install
Even the best setup won't catch every bad guy on video but assessing the install will give you a better understanding of the challenges you are about to face. What looked like an easy setup quickly changes at 2am hanging from a ladder or after a wrath of legal challenges from your human resources department. Before consulting with your management, legal department or human resources about your covert install, assess the situation thoroughly. Obliviously you have purchased the equipment so your mind is set, but before any covert installation gather as much intelligence about the investigation, the area under surveillance and how you plan to do the install. Make note of the area's lighting, power, accessibility to the location, concealment locations (height of the ceiling, type of tile, camouflage, etc) and any that might affect your setup or increase the odds to catch the subject in the act. Measure and sketch the area to be under surveillance, take photographs of the scene and document everything. Not only will this help plan every detail for a late-night install, but it will help you build multiple contingency plans should something go wrong.
As discussed in Covert investigations: cameras, your camera can be easily hidden no matter what the size you purchase using the natural environment and a little creative thinking. Most suspects aren't actively looking for a camera and you can use that to your installation advantage for quick and easy setups. Placing a pinhole in the ceiling often takes time, skills and may limit your viewing angles vs. placing a camera in a plant or between a stack of books on a shelf. Even the expensive "nanny cameras" can be quickly made with a box of tissues, a small hole and a glue gun for free. Remember sometimes a view of the subject's face or an identifier is all you need to close your investigations, so don't stress if the actual incident isn't caught on video. Your suspect, the jury and everyone else involved will be able to reasonably deduct that he painted the office red if he is the only person in the room at 3am.