Updated: Mar 18
We often see newcomers or people displaying an interest in getting into the investigations industry, and one of the first questions they ask is “What equipment do I need?”
Well, first and foremost it depends on what area of investigation you want to get into. If your planning on being a desktop investigator with a focus on trace searches or background checks, then there’s no point splashing out on cameras and GPS trackers etc. You would be better off spending your cash on a good PC or laptop.
If however you are more interested in the surveillance side of things, then you should be looking at the aforementioned kit.
With surveillance kit, the sky is the limit. You can spend thousands and thousands of pounds on gadgets and gizmos that you may find you rarely even use. Like all trades, only invest in specialist kit as and when you need it, and only purchase it if you are going to get a return on your investment.
When starting out, all you really need to actually do the job is a reliable video camera with a minimum of HD quality, a covert camera (again, minimum HD quality), a mobile phone for communications and at push, a GPS tracker.
You can pick up a decent HD video camera for around £200 if you want a new one, or under £100 for a used one. You certainly don’t need to buy a new one, as long as it works. There are plenty of brands and models to choose from, but generally operatives either go for Panasonic’s or Sony’s, but it’s all down to personal preference.
We wouldn’t suggest going cheap on your covert camera’s. There are many cheap Chinese spy cameras out there which claim to be all singing all dancing, but when put to use they prove to be very unreliable with footage quality being pretty poor to say the least. There are plenty of suppliers out there competing to sell good covert cameras at the best prices, and you can pick something up to start off with for between £150 and £250 depending on what you go for. At present we think it’s fair to say the most popular choices of covert are the Lawmate WiFi Keyfob or the Lawmate IPhone case. Your covert option is very much down to what you feel comfortable with. Personally, the keyfob is our preferred option as you can get your keys out in most settings without anyone really paying attention to them. That being said, you can do the same with a phone.
Surveillance operatives must have a phone. We use them for pretty much everything (apart from filming). No professional surveillance operative will deploy on an operation with only a phone for filming. Any operative that does this is considered a cowboy in this industry. Your phone is used for communications whether it be phone calls, texts, wattsapp, intelligence gathering etc. Some operatives swear by the use of handheld radios for voice communication’s which is fine, but in this day in age a phone works just as good, if not better.
GPS trackers are more of a luxury than an essential piece of kit. Trackers make life easier for operatives (as explained in one of our previous blogs), and as a new comer to the industry, you should not be relying on them. You should be practicing the tradecraft as you were hopefully taught, and this should not have involved following a moving dot on a map. If you do however decide to purchase one, again we don’t recommend going for the cheapest option. Cheap trackers will cause you more problems than it’s worth. Expect to pay in the region of £200 for a tracker worth using and even more for trackers designed for longer deployments.
As with any job, start small with your equipment and build it up over time. There’s no point going out and spending thousands of pounds on a fancy camera because you may not even like the job after a month. Once you are established, start looking at other more specialised kit (as and when you need it). Things like static cameras, drones, radios, listening devices, bug sweeping devices, headrest mounts, field monitors etc, etc etc. You won’t be using this kit every day, but you may land a job which requires it. Remember, only invest in it if you are going to get a return on it.