Thanks to early Hollywood crime dramas, when you hear the words “Private Investigator”, you may picture some gritty, tough character in a run-down office in a bad part of town whose only tools for surveillance are a cheap camera, questionable informants, a clunker car, and a bad attitude. The truth is, however, private investigation is a highly professional business. In fact, today technology has made it possible for PI’s to use surveillance equipment that mirrors previously fictional tools seen only in imaginative spy fiction.
Mini-Cameras and Recorders
Private investigators sometimes need to not just get information, but require proof in the form of pictures or recordings. And hardest of all, they need to do this surreptitiously. Enter the modern age of increasingly smaller yet more powerful technology. Miniature cameras allow an investigator to record the actions of others while remaining incognito. Steadily shrinking in size, currently they are small enough to slide into a shirt pocket. One amazing tool is a seemingly regular fountain pen which is also a video camera that records both video and sound. And many include features like wireless operation, low light recording, and are even motion or voice activated.
Microphones have also become incredibly advanced. Devices such as shotgun or parabolic mics can allow a person to hear conversations from hundreds of yards away. Less powerful, but more surreptitious ear buds can allow one to hear noises from much farther distances than a normal human ear.
Long gone are the days of a PI having to personally tail a vehicle. Now GPS trackers are small enough to be easily placed on a vehicle, which will not only track its location, but also how long a vehicle stopped and its speed. While laws vary as to its use or legality, it can be invaluable in gaining important information. For instance, parents of at-risk teens may want this on their vehicle to be aware of activities or to locate a missing child. And employers who suspect their work vehicles are being used against policy might benefit from this device to monitor how the vehicles are being used.
Phones are invaluable for a private investigator. Knowing a person’s phone use or conversations can be vital in a case. For instance, an investigator helping a client who is receiving phone threats would need to log the activity.
While these and many other tools exist that have made surveillance high-tech, laws have also grown stricter regarding the use of listening, tracking and recording devices. Fortunately, most private investigators are conscious of both federal and state laws regarding their use and act accordingly. When these tools are appropriately used, they greatly heighten the effectiveness, accuracy and speed of a private investigation.