Monday, January 23, 2012


Here are some driving tips for the actual vehicle surveillance.  First, always try to do a reconnaissance or at least a Google map check of the location sometime before you do the actual surveillance.  This will help you to know when there are parking restrictions on the street, what the street parking situation looks like, likely avenues of travel, and what the subject’s home or business looks like.  When you park your car and are setup, always be sure to lock your doors and keep your keys in the ignition.  You don’t want to be fumbling around for your keys when your Subject starts to move.  Practice ahead of time on how you’re going to quickly move from the back seat to the driver’s seat.  More than likely as a PI you’ll be working alone, so be sure to stay close enough to the Subject’s vehicle when he first takes off so you won’t lose him.  Once you’re comfortably behind that vehicle, try not to bumper lock him.  Initially on surface streets, you may have to be behind him due to traffic.  That’s all right, because most drivers are unaware their being followed and never check for it.  Once you’re comfortable with the traffic flow and the way the Subject drives, you don’t have to be in the same lane in order to follow him.  Be aware of your surroundings, especially to the lanes on your right and left.  You can move into them so as not to be constantly behind the Subject.  If traveling on service streets, pay attention to the on-coming green lights in case you need to close the gap so as to make the light.  If you’re traveling on a lightly congested road or a major freeway, you can always let a car in between you and the Subject’s vehicle for cover.  If your Subject pulls over and parks, you can always drive past him and park.  Use your side or rear view mirror to view him.  If I’m sitting in the front seat when my Subject pulls away, I always like to duck down until he drives by.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Here are some good tips to start you off about vehicle surveillances.  These are good for both private investigators and police detectives.  The first thing to look at is your vehicle.  Try to use one that is a neutral colors or lighter shades of gray or blue.  Stay away from the garish colors like red or orange because they really stick out.   Try not to use a white or black vehicle, because they also stand out.  The next thing to look at is to use a vehicle that blends in to the area.  In cities and suburbs, small SUVs are perfect because so many people drive them.  The next thing to think about is what can people see inside your vehicle when their close up.  Most vehicles come with at least the rear passenger and rear windows tinted.  Here in California you can’t have the front windshield or front driver and passenger windows tinted.  You can still cut down on the lighting by using a good front sunscreen shield.  You can also hang dark clothing on the side window hooks to cut down on light and interior visibility.  Next thing to think about is creature comforts.  Make sure you thoroughly clean all your windows, both inside and outside, before you leave home base.  There is nothing worse than having difficulty seeing through on-coming headlight glare at night due to dirty windows.   You’ll need bottled water, protein bars and I always bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some fruit.  Remember, you’re going to be in this vehicle for potentially four hours plus.  You definitely need something to use if nature calls.  I like to use something with a large rounded top, like a Snapple bottle or a hospital urine bottle.  Bring some pillows you can use to prop up your neck and back against the seat for creature comfort.  If you’re uncomfortable and moving around in the vehicle, this will cause it to shake and possibly give you away.  I like to bring a small portable radio to listen to on low volume because it helps the time go by.  Do not bring any reading material because you have to concentrate at all times.  If you’re a smoker, don’t do it in the vehicle.  Make sure the dome light is off or rendered useless.  Nothing worse at night then getting out of the vehicle and having the dome light silhouette you.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Back when I worked as a police officer and homicide detective for the LAPD in South Central Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, it was a custom there that on New Year’s Eve the local citizens would fire off their guns in celebration.  You would hear a cacophony of gunshots from 11:30 PM on New Year’s Eve till about 1:00 AM New Year’s Morning.  If you were working patrol during those hours, you would try to get back to the station and sit in the parking lot to avoid getting hit.  I vividly recall pulling into the station parking lot and seeing a guy who lived in one of the apartments next to the station run out on his porch and fire a bunch of rounds from his gun into the air right around the stroke of midnight.   If you couldn’t make it back in by then because you were on  a call, as soon as you cleared that scene you’d at least try to make it to a freeway underpass if you weren’t close to the station.  It wasn’t that people took a free pass to shoot at the cops, it was just that there were so many guns down there and so many rounds going off you might become an accidental casualty.  Newton’s Law of Gravity, what comes up must come down, definitely plays into effect here.  All those rounds being shot in the air have to go someplace, so if they go up, eventually there going to go down. They also come down at the same speed they went up.  My homicide partner at 77th Street Division handled a murder that happened just around midnight one New Year’s Eve where the unfortunate victim happened to be walking down the street when a spent bullet  came down and hit him on top of the head, killing him instantly.  With so many people firing their guns off in celebration in the area, how were you going to identify the shooter?  The case went unsolved. One year we put a tape recorder on top of the station on New Year’s Eve and left it up there for about an hour.  When we played it back, it sounded like the Battle of Hue City (Viet Nam).  So every year when I celebrate the New Year, my memories take me back to the one night each year when it rained bullets in the City of Angels.