There has recently been some industry debate (which did get a bit frosty) around what types of vehicles surveillance operatives should be using. Everyone had an opinion, so we thought we would share ours.
First and foremost, we do NOT use Aston Martins. The first thing you do when you see an Aston Martin is dribble, and the whole point of covert surveillance is to remain undetected. Using an Aston Martin (or any other flash vehicle) completely defeats the point. That being said, if the task does involve high value vehicles in affluent areas of the country, then one may be suited over a Toyota Aygo... However, tasks like these are few and far between, so an investigator will be suited to something a bit more subtle for every day use.
There are many things to consider when choosing an everyday surveillance vehicle. Firstly the colour... It’s best to choose a vehicle with a neutral colour that doesn’t catch the eye (grey, silver black etc). We tend to avoid white vehicles purely because if you see a white vehicle in your rear view, you naturally double take it in fear of it being a police car, at which point the operative has been noticed unnecessarily.
Secondly, the vehicle needs to have a bit of oomph! A surveillance operative cutting around in 1.0L Chevrolet Matiz is going to have no chance keeping up with a mobility scooter.
Lastly, comfort. An operatives vehicle is his or her observation platform, office, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and dining room. Some operatives can make do with hatchbacks, but others (like us) prefer to have a bit more leg room for those longer days!
The frosty debate around vehicles stemmed from the use of vans on jobs. Some were arguing that they are useless, and some were arguing they are not. Our opinion is that all (well, most) vehicles have their place. Vans can be a hugely valuable asset on operations because they can blend in perfectly in quite a few places such as building sites, road sides etc. Also, with the amount of space they offer in the back, an operative can be self sustained for a considerable amount of time. However, we feel it would be pretty dodgy commencing follow procedures in one. The subject is likely to notice the massive box constantly in his or her rear view after a few turns meaning the operative will quickly fall into a compromising position. They can also create a lot of unwanted attention if they are parked up in residential areas for any amount of time. Vans should be used as an asset when and where required, and not as an everyday surveillance vehicle. We have noticed an uptake in new operatives investing into vans as their primary surveillance platforms. This is quite silly because they lack experience first of all, and they are essentially working in a vehicle that may as well have a bulls eye on the side of it.
We won’t go into what goes inside a surveillance vehicle, or what needs to be done to remain covert when operating from within one, that’s for another day (or maybe not at all actually...) but considerations must also be made in order for an operative to work with the necessary equipment effectively.