Surveillance Equipment Private Investigators Use

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What Do You Need to Be a Private Investigator?

Surveillance equipment aside, do you need anything to be a private investigator? In the UK, you don’t need any formal qualifications to work as a private detective, but you do need to be a law-abiding citizen. In some parts of the world, the private investigation industry is more tightly regulated than here in the UK. PI hopefuls need to apply for and successfully obtain private investigator licenses in many parts of the USA. The process of getting a license usually involves being subjected to a comprehensive background check. 

While a good number of our investigators are former police officers, equally as many aren’t. The truth is you don’t need a degree in criminal justice to be a good investigator, even though, in some cases, it might help. So if there’s no legal barrier to becoming a PI in the UK, what equipment do you need?

Technically speaking, none. In theory, you conduct surveillance on foot and report your findings to your clients with evidence recorded on your mobile phone. You would probably struggle to make a living this way. Good PIs need to gather high-quality evidence that is actually of use to clients. A grainy phone recording with no timestamp is no good to anyone. To be taken seriously as a private investigator, you’re going to need to invest in some quality equipment. 

High-Resolution Camera

As investigators, we need to keep our distance when we conduct surveillance, which means that we need powerful cameras to record high-quality footage from a distance. All of our investigators use modern DSLRs with a wide range of stabilising and telephoto lenses. This means we can record clear footage of precisely what is going on from a safe distance.

When you’re starting out, you might not have the budget to invest in a top-of-the-range DSLR and extra lenses, but a camera of decent quality is an absolute must. A second hand Canon 2000D will set you back a couple of hundred pounds, but it’s powerful enough to get evidence that your clients can use. Remember how high the stakes are for your clients. They need this evidence to confront their cheating partner or get custody of their child.

Listening Device

We sometimes need to hear what’s going on more than we need to see it when conducting surveillance. If we’re conducting covert surveillance, like an interview, we can use a high-quality, body-worn microphone to get crystal clear audio recordings. Unfortunately, however, we need to compromise clarity for the sake of discretion.

In some circumstances, we’re allowed to plant small voice recorders called bugs to conduct remote surveillance. These bugs usually need to be disguised as an inconspicuous object, like a wall socket, so that the subject doesn’t detect them. A good quality bug with a plausible cover will cost you a few hundred pounds, but you could make one yourself out of a small microphone and an ordinary household object.

GPS Tracking Devices

We often find the most fertile leads in an investigation by planting vehicle tracking devices. Information about someone’s whereabouts and the timings of their movements can be invaluable to solving a case. The cost and size of tracking devices vary wildly, depending on the battery life. A tracker that can last for six months will cost two or three hundred pounds.

Like all equipment, a PI needs to make sure that they’re using trackers responsibly and legally. It’s illegal to track someone else’s car without their consent. To track someone discreetly, you’d have to be the vehicle owner or have the vehicle owner’s permission. That being said, many people do consent to the use of trackers in their own vehicles for security surveillance.

Counter-Surveillance Equipment

An important subcategory of private investigation work is counter-surveillance. In order to carry this out effectively, it’s helpful to have some equipment to hand. While a manual bug sweep can be a cheap way of getting the job done, it might take a long time.

A bug detector looks for devices emitting radio signals where they shouldn’t be. If your client’s pens, calculators, and wall adapters transmit a radio signal, it’s a strong indicator that these items are bugged. Quickly identifying and removing the bugged devices is paramount to ensuring the client’s safety.

A bug detector looks for devices emitting radio signals where they shouldn’t be. If your client’s pens, calculators, and wall adapters transmit a radio signal, it’s a strong indicator that these items are bugged. Quickly identifying and removing the bugged devices is paramount to ensuring the client’s safety.

To anyone looking to become a private investigator, we’d recommend that you beef up on data protection and privacy laws. You need to ensure that the intelligence you gather is legal and responsible.

Private Investigations UK offers high-tech surveillance solutions to businesses and individuals. For free, friendly advice, give us a call on 0800 002 0898 or contact us on social media: Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook.

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