• Locard Investigations

Team Surveillance - Why two sets of eyes works out cheaper than one

When you approach a private investigator to organise a period of surveillance on somebody else, often the cost is going to be at the forefront of your mind. This is completely understandable as nobody wants to pay more for a service than they must.

However, when considering surveillance that might involve an element of following a person or vehicle, why might employing a team of 2 or 3 people actually work out cheaper than opting for a solo operator when this seams completely counter intuitive?

Let’s consider a scenario where a solo operator is employed to follow a person from their home address to find out where they are going to and who they are meeting.

The operator takes up a position in their car watching the house and notes the person leaving who gets on a bus. If the surveillance can follow the bus (which is very difficult due to its stop-start nature), whilst keeping an eye out to see who gets off, it is virtually inevitable that the person will get off the bus and disappear before the operator has the chance to park and follow on foot. And that is now considered a ‘total loss’ meaning that surveillance efforts are terminated for that day.

If perhaps there were a team of two operators, one of them could follow on the bus whilst the other brings the vehicle along as backup so that the team can regroup and alternate later during the surveillance.

But what if the solo operator parks the car and then follows our subject on to the bus themselves? Wouldn’t that work?

Well perhaps...

Let’s try the scenario again. The solo operator follows the person to the bus stop and waits at the bus stop with them. They then follow on to the bus and get off again with the subject and continues following them on foot to a café. There, our solo operator and our person of interest sit and have lunch.

Even if our person is generally unobservant, they have now had exposure to our ‘covert’ operative at the bus stop, on the bus, out walking and now at the café. At some point, they are going to notice the same person in their ‘personal atmosphere’ and the surveillance will be compromised.

Yet – if there were 2 operators, they can swap positions and reduce the amount of exposure that they generate. This renders the person that they are following totally unaware and allows surveillance to continue for a much longer period without the threat of detection.

In both ‘solo operator’ scenarios, the job is over – one ending with a loss (try again another day), the other ending in compromise meaning it may be difficult to try again now our person is aware that they have been followed.

When you decide to ‘purchase’ surveillance services, what you are really buying is information, or ‘product’. You want to know what’s going on, where they’re going and what they’re doing. If you have to keep purchasing surveillance, because your solo operator keeps losing the subject – then this is going to be more expensive than hiring a small team upfront. And a team is far more able to get the ‘product’ you need than the single operative.

We should understand that losses and compromise do happen - even to teams – however, a small team is exponentially more effective than a single operator working alone, trying to follow, navigate, record and take photographic evidence. This means that they may be able to capture the information you need in one sitting, rather than repeat attempts that get harder and harder if the subject has become ‘surveillance-aware’.

There is of course a role for the solo operator that keeps costs down and that is ‘static observation’ i.e., where a surveillance operator is employed to covertly monitor a residence or location and log the comings and goings where there is no need to follow anyone. This is an ideal job for one person who can take up a position and keep tabs and report back any salient information.

In summary, a slightly higher upfront cost for the engagement of 2 or 3 operatives will often work out less expensive than repeated bookings of a solo operator who has limited capability to keep effective ‘eyes-on’ your person of interest.

Locard Investigations always recommend to clients the engagement of a team over one single investigator to help them reach the truth quickly and at less cost. This is not an upsell, it simply makes good economic sense. Two sets of eyes are always better than one!

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