Making the business case for surveillance
In the world of black and white surveillance, experts sometimes have to operate within the shades of grey.
This means that they require a perfect understanding of the parameters, the law and their role. It is vitally important for surveillance operatives to be confident in applying their skills and knowledge and to execute with conviction. The art of surveillance requires training, experience, trust and support by a competent team, qualities that all credible security companies should promote.
For those who have a passion to enter this expert field there are many principles and disciplines underpinning this niche area within the security industry.
Fundamental rules for surveillance
Whatever the circumstances surrounding each deployment, there are fundamental rules which must always be taken into account when preparing the team and establishing the methods of surveillance to be applied. You need to ask whether the cost and methods are proportionate, whether the tactics and resources deployed are necessary and justifiable in the evidence gathering phase. Each case should be assessed to understand the client’s requirement. By using their knowledge and experience, the surveillance provider clearly identifies the best way of achieving the client’s goals within the agreed framework.
Any reputable organisation should deploy operatives with a long standing and proven record of success in conventional surveillance, use established tactics and methodology to obtain the required evidence in a lawful manner, whilst operating to the National Intelligence Model (NIM), as well as adhering to the legal requirements of the British judicial system and maintaining compliance with court requirements.
The welfare of surveillance operatives is paramount and to safeguard their safety, a Cover and Welfare Officer must be assigned to manage each deployment, ensuring an excellent standard of practice is achieved and maintaining continuity within the structure of each investigation.
Security organisations are not public bodies, but it is best practice to act within the spirit of the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act 1998, known as RIPA. This act was created to ensure activities of Law Enforcement bodies were regulated prior to the Human Rights Act of 2000.
RIPA covers all aspects of how to obtain intelligence, communications, information, surveillance and data. In addition, it covers the lawful processes that must be adhered to when obtaining this material and the storage and controlled dissemination of such evidence.
A credible surveillance team will consist of male and female operatives with a varied range of ages and cultural backgrounds. They will use a variety of vehicles and props to aid the success of the deployment. Effective placement within the environment is a key factor, therefore using vehicles best suited to the surroundings is vitally important since this reduces raising suspicion amongst members of the public or indeed the ‘Target’. This placement forms part of what is referred to as ‘Trade Craft’.
Some organisations may have dedicated specialist personnel gathering intelligence through legal ‘open source’ data, such as social media research, to supplement the investigations. The tactics used by the operatives are mostly assessed on a case by case requirement and will dictate the necessary level of Trade Craft required.
Over the years the capability of camera systems has evolved from hard-wired single-use cameras to those with night-vision and wirelessly-deployable. These can be remotely operated and secreted into unobtrusive items such as tie pins. These state-of-the-art overt and covert camera systems are readily available and can be deployed depending on the client’s requirements. Camera units can be installed as a stand-alone system or can be used to corroborate the intelligence chain of the operatives in the field. Driven by a culture of innovation many organisations have access to bespoke tracking devices with built in GSM/GPS that can be used worldwide. Audio devices can be used to capture intelligence to complement any visual evidence; these devices can be deployed as a stand alone unit or body worn to support operatives in the field.
Reputable surveillance teams work closely with law enforcement agencies around the country. They apply the standards used by the police when dealing with the recovery of evidence and how it is preserved and stored. The operatives will understand the importance of exhibiting items of evidence so that they can be easily identified at a later date. Properly exhibiting evidence, along with its storage and auditing, forms part of the accredited standards required to present a professional NIM-compliant case should it ever form part of a Police investigation.
Upon completion of a deployment a full evidence package will be compiled and presented to the client; this includes material such as detailed reports, witness statements, copies of imagery, audio recording and any other material evidence recovered and exhibited which is obtained to court standards. Supporting bodies such as Police Forces and Local Authorities will be provided with a duplicate package where necessary.
The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is striving to enforce the statutory licensing of Private Investigation activities as soon as possible within 2015. I anticipate that credible security companies or organisations will embrace this change and welcome the new licensing protocol. In my view it will unequivocally improve industry standards and enhance a company’s reputation moving forward.
An inspiring mantra I share with my teams:
“If it can be ethically justified, if it is necessary and the objectives are proportionate to the goal, whilst acting within the parameters of the law and the person’s human rights, with our surveillance team we can achieve it.”
Tracy Webster, Projects Manager – Specialist Operations, The Shield Group (at time of writing)