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How to Run A Surveillance Detection Route (Like a Spy)

Paparazzi hiding in a blue garbage bin to take pictures

All crimes are preceded by surveillance. It might be as simple as some crack head at your local mall watching the exit as you leave. If they think you look like an easy victim they may follow you to your car and try to rob or carjack you.



Then there’s more “advanced” surveillance where it might be an ex-lover (or someone they have hired) who is stalking you and following you to work, the gym, or other places you frequent.




If you think someone may be following you and you want to determine if they really are (and prove that you’re not imagining it) what you want to do is run a surveillance detection route (SDR).


Here’s how to put together an SDR like the pros. (This is what I do when someone hires my investigations company, Global Protection and Intelligence.)



First, we plan a SDR for our client. We find out places that our client frequently visits, such as the grocery store, Starbucks, the gym, Macy’s, etc. Once we know a client’s favorite places we lay out the SDR so that it will look like a normal day of errands for our client and won’t be suspicious to anyone following them.



For example, we would have them leave their house at 10:05am and go to their first Cover Stop, which would be Starbucks. They would stay at Starbucks for 15 minutes and then drive to their next Cover Stop, which would be Macy’s to look at clothes. They would spend 45 minutes at Macy’s.

Attractive woman checking bar code in shopping mall

Next, they would go to their third Cover Stop, which would be their gym and they would spend one hour there. On their way home from the gym, they would stop at the grocery store and pick up a few items, spending 20 minutes there. After the grocery store, they would head home.



While our client is running their errands, my surveillance team is following the client to see if anyone is following them. If they pick up people who go to Starbucks, then Macy’s, then the gym, etc., then we know that someone is following the client. We make sure to get pictures and license plates and we find out who the people are and begin to build a case.



It’s important to remember that when you plan an SDR that you make it look like a normal day. If I were trying to see if someone was following me and I planned an SDR to Michael’s Craft store and Bloomingdale’s, that would not be a good idea since I never go to those stores.



Also, make sure that you time the entire SDR. What I mean is, you need to know that you leave the house at 10:05, arrive at Starbucks at 10:17, leave Starbucks at 10:30, arrive at Macy’s at 10:43, etc.

Times 2

The reason you do this is because if the surveillance team sees the same person throughout the day at these places at the exact times you’re there, there is no doubt that someone is following you and it makes our job easier.



Hopefully, you never have an ex-spouse (or lover) who you think may be following you, but if you do, plan an SDR to make sure.



Of course, an SDR doesn’t have to be as complex as what I described above. It could be as simple as walking to different stores in the mall to see if the creepy guy in the mall is actually following you… and if he is, get security, stay in public, and don’t go out to the parking lot, where you’re more vulnerable, alone.



Note: If you want details about the Advanced Survival Tradecraft course (modeled after the CIA’s course) where we go in-depth about SDRs, click here.


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