We constantly think about our work and how to help our clients. It does us no good to take a case and not get results. The client isn’t happy and neither are we. We try to be as transparent as possible from the first contact to the last. We are writing this entry about surveillance to tell you how the process really works and to increase your/our chances of getting results.
Calculating What a San Francisco Bay Area Surveillance Costs
At first the client has to decide what’s at stake. Is the surveillance for an insurance defense investigation trying to prove fraud in a $1 million claim or for a family law case where child custody is at stake, or maybe it’s trying to get evidence of infidelity in a long-term marriage? I look at the budget commitment question as something similar to playing poker, what is referred to as pot odds. Or, use a business analogy: What is the return on investment?
The more important the situation the more resources you need to commit. If playing in a poker game and you know you have a good hand, or you know your opponent is likely to be bluffing, it makes sense to commit more to win the pot.
In the more than 20 years we have been doing this we have seen and obtained results for clients who have spent about a minimum of $2,000 and well over $10,000. We will use one, two or three licensed private investigators each with their own video surveillance equipment. The number of personnel depends on the subject. We use professional surveillance operatives who write detailed reports and who make for excellent court witnesses. We are nor farming anything out for cheap or inferior labor. In surveillance like any other service you really do get what you pay for. The hourly range for our surveillance services may range from about $125 per hour to $300 per hour. Cost depends on the number of personnel we are going to use.
The Three Ps of A Good Surveillance
We obtain solid evidence with good information up-front. After the client agrees to a retainer, we then meet the client in person. We need to know as much as possible about the subject. What does he drive? Where does he park? What is his driving style like? How does he wear his hair? Does he wear jewelry. We will need photos of him. We will need to know his schedule.
On a mobile subject we will need to use two or three investigators. On a suburban or stationary surveillance, one investigator might be enough for the job. Heavy traffic situations will also require more personnel. We will also use a male-female team of private investigators. Surveillance is more about blending in than not being seen.
We typically will not work surveillance cases on a rush basis. Flying out the door without a plan in place rarely yields good results.
If we are too aggressive in the beginning and get detected, will have to take a long break before attempting again. We are all creatures of habit. The insurance cheat or the marital cheat will make mistakes. With a patient, disciplined approach, we get results. Over time, we will figure out a subject’s habits.
It’s not the end of the world if we temporarily lose someone on surveillance. We return to our staging areas another time or find the subject at a place he frequents. Good habits allow us to get back on the trail again.
On a Berkeley case it took a week or two to catch a cheating husband. The client could see on her husband’s phone he was going to a certain area. She saw that he was visiting the same area before work but not for a very long time. We went on him with one operative at first but caught him using two operatives. We had determined his habits.
The GPS the client checked on her phone was not precise. We knew he was going to an area about 200 yards long. We went to the same location three times. We caught him on the third time because we had planned, committed and anticipated his next steps. When we caught him we had two investigators in separate cars. Each parked in a separate area. We obtained video of him cheating. The results cost about a total of $2000.
California Law about Using a GPS Device
In some situations it is legal to use a GPS device. It’s always best though to consult an attorney. One gray area is where both spouses are on registration and title to a vehicle. If you solely own the vehicle but someone else–spouse, child, family, etc–is using the car then it’s likely legal.
Here is the relevant California law and a good article about GPS
637.7. (a) No person or entity in this state shall use an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person.
(b) This section shall not apply when the registered owner, lessor, or lessee of a vehicle has consented to the use of the electronic tracking device with respect to that vehicle.
(c) This section shall not apply to the lawful use of an electronic tracking device by a law enforcement agency.
(d) As used in this section, electronic tracking device means any device attached to a vehicle or other movable thing that reveals its location or movement by the transmission of electronic signals.
(e) A violation of this section is a misdemeanor.
(f) A violation of this section by a person, business, firm, company, association, partnership, or corporation licensed under Division 3 (commencing with Section 5000) of the Business and Professions Code shall constitute grounds for revocation of the license issued to that person, business, firm, company, association, partnership, or corporation, pursuant to the provisions that provide for the revocation of the license as set forth in Division 3 (commencing with Section 5000) of the Business and Professions Code.