Stationary Surveillance

Stationary surveillance is difficult for many PIs, mainly because of the sheer boredom that some feel when sitting for hours in a vehicle with nothing to do but stare at one location. Sometimes, however, it's the only way to obtain video of a subject who rarely exits his home.


When you do stationary surveillance in winter, be careful of running your vehicle for warmth, as the exhaust may be apparent, much as warm breath on a cold day. Exhaust coming from a parked vehicle may draw the attention of an otherwise unsuspecting target — and the neighbors. Some neighborhoods are organized into neighborhood watch sections. If you're parked in one of these, be prepared to provide a pretext for why you're sitting there.

Investigators have used the ruse of looking for a lost dog or cat, and have even printed bogus flyers to validate being in the area. However, this isn't recommended by experienced PIs. Someone who's out looking for a lost animal will be out looking, sometimes frantically. This won't be a believable ruse to most. Besides, some of the target's neighbors may have a soft spot, should they believe you, and may waste your time and energy by insisting on searching with you for your pet.

Some investigators enjoy stationary surveillance. They report feeling energized by the knowledge that, at any moment, the target may exit, necessitating quick action in order to film her. They feel wound up, anticipating the moment when they get that difficult shot. It's a rush for them. It's what you're paid to do — so no daydreaming.

Neighborhood Issues

Stationary surveillance in neighborhoods is difficult. There are no good places to park. Sometimes, neighbors will allow you to sit in their driveway or in front of their house, usually because you've offered a plausible reason for wanting to be there. One investigator has been known to tell a female neighbor that he's watching a male cheating on his wife; he tells a male the investigation concerns a female cheating on her husband. Sometimes, the neighbor is sympathetic and will allow the surveillance vehicle in front of her house. Another investigator tells neighbors that she's received information that her spouse was seen in the neighborhood during working hours and she's waiting to see where he goes. You might not be as convincing, so choose a ruse that you can portray believably.

If police are called, don't lie to them. Tell them you're an investigator and ask for their help. Some will help, but some won't. If you know you'll be in an area ahead of time, call the station and inform them. It's not necessary to divulge the name or address of the target, however; you never know who knows whom. This is one reason it's beneficial to develop contacts in the department.

Sitting for long periods gives rise to the problem of bladder needs. Products specifically made for both males and females can be found in drug stores. In a pinch, use a jar. Always prepare for these needs because you never know how long you'll be required to sit on a case. Portable toilets can be purchased, but they're not necessary.

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