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Conducting Surveillance Operations: How to Get the Most Out of Them

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 73 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2004 Pages: 1-7
John T. Nason
Date Published
May 2004
7 pages
This instruction on conducting surveillance operations encompasses planning and preparation, surveillance components, surveillance photography, surveillance risks, and surveillance termination.
Once investigators decide that surveillance is appropriate, their agency's policy will determine what levels of authorization are needed and how to allocate the necessary resources for the surveillance. All team members should receive pertinent details on a preprinted form. Information should include the case background, the surveillance objective, risk factors, previous surveillance of the subject, and the subject's personal data. Instruction on surveillance components addresses area setup, mobile surveillance, static surveillance, and documentation and logs. The article's section on surveillance photography advises that investigators should attempt to obtain the highest quality surveillance photographs possible. In discussing digital versus conventional photography, the author notes that conversion from conventional to digital photography has not posed any significant evidentiary problems to date. A variety of authentication methods can ensure the integrity of a photo in the face of any challenge that alleges manipulation has occurred. The section on surveillance photography also discusses still versus video photography. The author advises that if possible, investigators should obtain both still and video photos. The discussion of surveillance risks advises that investigators should always assume that subjects engaged in operational, terrorist, or criminal activity will attempt to detect surveillance by means of a variety of methods and techniques. Risk assessments must be continuously conducted at every level. The article concludes with an outline of the factors to consider when deciding whether or not to terminate a surveillance operation. A surveillance kit checklist is provided, along with a list of safety and security measures for a surveillance operation. 3 notes