The Art of Surveillance: Part II

Private Investigation Techniques II


Carrying Out a Surveillance

Surveillance Vehicles

Of the 100s of surveillance cases IPIA has done there is not one that has not needed a vehicle at least for part of the time. Special consideration must be given to the vehicle you will use.

  1. Choose a vehicle that will attract very little attention no matter where it is used;
  2. The vehicle’s appearance should be nondescript;
  3. It should be a commonly used production line vehicle;
  4. It should be adequately powered for the situation;
  5. More recent models are preferred;
  6. Avoid loud and bright colours;
  7. Avoid loud exhausts, squeaky brakes, rattles etc;
  8. Do not alter the appearance (e.g. Spoilers, racks, lights etc);
  9. Do not add distinguishing features (eg. transfers, parcels on rear shelf, hangings from mirrors, flags, articles on dashboard, wide wheels, noticeable mag wheels, bull bars, etc);
  10. Dents, scratches, repair work etc make a vehicle more noticeable;
  11. There should be no advertising signs;
  12. Ensure all lighting is working correctly
  13. Ensure it is mechanically sound (for performance, economy, reliability, smoke emission etc)
  14. Do not place books or objects on the front dashboard;
  15. Alternate the sun visor positions
  16. Ensure the vehicle is always full of petrol

In Indonesia a motorbike is often used for mobile surveillance. IPIA agents on motorbikes always take two different coloured helmets with them (not bright with stickers though) so they can change at different points during a surveillance.

Surveillance Preparation

Before a mobile surveillance starts IPIA carries out a preparatory due diligence.

This involves visiting the known locations – such as a house or workplace. Agents must become familiar with the locations and surroundings. They will be looking at various factors such as the best positions for standing by and also the main exit points.

Our agents produce a preparatory due diligence report for their own use and for the use of other agents if a case is handed over.

As part of the preparatory work agents will prepare a cover story. A cover story can be used for any approach made by either the target or any close neighbours or anyone else who may observe a continued presence in the area.

Whilst cover stories are prepared it is almost impossible to cover all possible scenarios. Agents must be skilled improvisers. Our sister agency Bali Eye Private Investigation Agency has produced an article on improvisation skills.

Mobile Vehicle Surveillance

These can be difficult guidelines to follow during surveillance of a vehicle that is moving. However general guidelines include.

  1.  Ensure a minimum of one car cover (i.e one car between you and the target vehicle)
  2. In heavy traffic, ensure a two car cover maximum;
  3. On a multi-lane road or a highway, the best position is in the lane to the left or right of the subject.

It is also preferred to have two teams on a mobile surveillance. These teams will switch at regular intervals. So for example agent A follows the target, and agent B follows agent A. Then after several minutes agents A and B switch. This is also useful for foot surveillance.

Surveillance Kit

Indonesia Private Investigation Agents prepare a surveillance kit before a case starts. Surveillance kits include items such as:

Personal Belongings

  1. Changes of clothing;
  2. Money;
  3. Mobile phone;
  4. Food and water;
  5. Toiletries;
  6. Licences;
  7. Valuables.


  1. Binoculars;
  2. Tape recorder;
  3. Writing paper / pens etc;
  4. Travel / carry bags;
  5. Cameras;
  6. Radio;
  7. Torch;
  8. Batteries;
  9. Waterproof gear and an extra helmet for agents on a motorbike.

Surveillance in a Building

If the target you are following on foot enters a building there are various issues that need to be considered:

  1. If possible try and take a different entry point than the target. Without losing the target if you can enter through another door take it;
  2. Enter 30 seconds after if possible and walk in with a purpose;
  3. Identify location of all exits;
  4. Use people for cover;
  5. The use of elevators. Let the target get in the elevator first and see which floor number they press. Press the number above or below it. If there are several persons in the lift stand at the front. When people leave, move with them so you can observe the target’s movements and then follow them;
  6. Always keep distance and cover in your favour;
  7. In shops high racks and shelving provide reasonable cover;
  8. Speak with staff (this is where improvising skills are useful);
  9. Use mezzanine floors and balconies as advantage points;
  10. Focus on what the target can see when you cannot see the target;
  11. Be aware of reflections in windows;
  12. Restaurants – at night you can see them through the window but they can’t see you. In the day you cant see them through windows generally but they can see you.
  13. If you are inside – and the subject orders a meal, order an entrée. It is quick to eat and cheap and allows you to leave quickly. It is also better to pay once the food is delivered (you can easily make an excuse if needed as to why you want to pay immediately);
  14. Order light quick meals and no alcohol;
  15. Order coke in a short glass – this appears to be an alcoholic drink;

For all types of surveillance it is very important to keep accurate notes: times, dates, locations, descriptions etc. Many people think they will remember but people always forget some details. Agents should also write investigative reports as soon as possible after finishing a surveillance session whilst fresh in the memory.

Indonesia Private Investigation Agency (IPIA) along with our sister agency  Bali Eye Private Investigation Agency (BEPIA) are fully registered Private Investigation Agencies offering private detective and private investigator services to the Private and Business sectors throughout Indonesia and South East Asia.


About the Author

IPIA's Director of Investigations is an Indonesian national with a Diploma in PI work (with distinction) from the UK and an Australian Government accredited Certificate in Investigative Services. She has worked on over 400 cases for private and business clients.