Surveillance – Managing the White Space

Oct 24, 2012

What is “good” surveillance? In insurance defense investigations it is often measured by the bottom-line or end result. How much video was obtained and what does that video depict? To an insurance adjuster managing a heavy case load, the bottom-line is necessarily the focus and ultimate concern. The investigative report’s time entries document occurrences relevant to the case. But for the investigator, what happens in those “white spaces” comprises most of what determines a favorable end result. Simply, it is what isn’t on the page that tells the story of effective surveillance techniques.

A typical report time entry might look something like this:

10:20 a.m. The subject departed the residence.

10:40 a.m. The subject arrived at a grocery store. Videotape was obtained…

The bottom line is a tangible result: videotape was obtained. But success or failure is determined in that seemingly irrelevant 20-minute “white space” between time entries…the active pursuit. In a seemingly uneventful 20-minute pursuit from point A to point B hundreds of variables are considered and a myriad of split second decisions are made.

There are the physical logistics of the pursuit, such as vehicle spacing, positioning, speed, direction, traffic volume, road conditions, traffic signals, road signs, etc. to consider. There is the behavior of the subject. What are his/her driving tendencies – decisive, distracted, predictable, erratic? There is consideration of direction and location. Based on what is known of the subject, what potential businesses in the area might be a destination? The investigator must be several steps ahead mentally in order to act and react quickly in the unpredictability of active pursuit. It requires acute awareness and attention to peripheral detail every moment. It is a nuanced and subtle dance and one wrong move can compromise the investigation or end the day.

Successful pursuit is a cornerstone of useful, effective surveillance. It is skillful management of this “white space” that distinguishes the bad from the good, and the useless from the valuable.

– Richard Q.