Ever pick a topic of study that’s simply not your specialty, just to see what random thoughts come in your head if you had to utilize the skillset on-the-spot? While surveillance is simply not my lane, I have formulated some ideas on things I’ve seen. I also like the challenge of exploring avenues outside that lane to glean greater perspective on parallel areas of study. I absolutely do not claim to be any sort of expert on this topic. That being said, where do my ideas delve from? A little background. I’ve been exposed here to a top security-company that subcontracted me for 3 years, been around top political reps in the country (they were friends of my late father-in-law with prior political-affiliation), and talked to various expat-PIs in the country. I’ve also been a foreigner living abroad for almost a decade, one that pays attention out of necessity. So I’ve seen a sliding-scale of various levels of surveillance. That being said, just some random thoughts from my (very) civilian (and novice) perspective and internal thought-process:
-the “secret service” here takes the standard Hollywood template – black suits, open earpieces, concealed-but-seen carry (visible printing), active contact, and somewhat invasive body language at a civilian event. To me, watching it, it was outdated and attention-drawing when there are subtle and protected (cellphone/outside tech) means of agent-to-agent contact available, garb that fits in more subtly with the surrounding public, and without drawing public scrutiny and anxiety.
-P.I.s are far more brazen and uncouth but stand-out for other reasons as it’s a staunchly a North American thing, they’re not uber-present here and I have yet to see one from a local apart from LE stings. Here any white gringo that doesn’t speak Spanish, and doesn’t dress like the nationals is going to have a hard time doing surveillance himself without contracting locals (and that’s a trust issue where they can turn due to low-wages in that field), regardless of how efficient he thinks he is, especially with only civilian-background.
-I think with GPS-trackers, geo-tagging, easily-accessible low-cost bugs, and free cellphone apps, it’s more easy than ever to at minimum keep tabs on someone of-interest. I think I proved that with the profiling article from the license-plate I posted a short time ago. ( https://blog.mandirigmafma.com/index.php/2019/06/19/1421/ ) Information-gathering can be damn-near free and self-achieved.
-people here/lower-to-middle class Latinos in-general are far more innovative than NAs when cutting-corners…out of necessity. They find efficient, cost-effective/free, easy, highest-percentage ways to accomplish a goal so a tail here can be far more serious when it’s present – most sicarios (contract-killers) make a hit from a motorcycle with 1 or 2 people and they (until the last second) look like any working-class guy on a bike. Sicarios here can cost as low as $50-100. Point being? Surveillance is rare here. P.I.s or surveillance teams are usually only hired by rich Ticos or North American expats with money. And most aren’t directing that money to low-class or majority-poor locals or foreigners. They’re not going to put out that kind of money unless the threat or danger is of the high-order variety.
-If being honest, “surveillance” in its most primal and base term is done by criminals staking-out a potential mark for robbery, home-invasion, assault, etc. In fact, we just had one here a couple of weeks ago checking us out. Feigning being a long-time neighborhood resident, asking for some money as he’s fallen on hard times (though wearing a pressed white dress-shirt, carrying a clean black backpack, and wearing non-ripped jeans), asking questions about the property, asking to be let out the gate again (thought he was trapped inside, either faking or a tactical error). They check-out the area for escape routes, ask very specific questions, check the security, see how homes are set-up and with how many people, what kind of value could be obtained, etc. And they can be quite effective in spite of the brazenness. I followed him for a time and he didn’t go to one other single house in the area. Again, point being? “Surveillance” does not need to be done with tech, from a car, over a certain time-period. It can be surprisingly simple and basic…again, if one has intent and motivation. These are a far-greater concern than the surveillance-guy in his car outside the house. I busted an employee next door by planting an ipod in a pillow and caught him stealing $1000 over lunch-hour from my sister-in-law. They had never thought of it and weren’t proactive at all in options for stopping the theft. I solved it in 12-hours.
-Doing a self-check on how you’d do surveillance on your own living area gives great perspective on how you’d do it on someone else. How would I access me if I were the target. Are you in a compound or gated community with access code or security? Are there high-ground vantage points to assess the area? Can you enter the area as a guest or professional in any way? Can you gain accessibility doing what the above gentleman did? It’s what I’d do. Then, if able to not draw attention, be authentic, subtle, outgoing, and get information from comments and subtle casual questions. Take photos/video as needed of accessibility, entry/exit points, best vantage-points from distance, number of people/staff on-premises at any given point, visual access/acuity-points, dogs…maybe stumble into a couple of restricted-areas by accident trying to find your way-around.
-Staying at a target’s location, takes advantage of people’s Hollywood belief/perception that all surveillance is from a distance, from someone whose last wish is to interact with you, and that it’s high-tech. The minute you put money into their business, compliment them, show an interest in their perspective on things…their paranoia and distrust most often goes elsewhere.
-I’m not a millionaire, CEO of a large company, heir to a small fortune, inventor of a life-changing tech product, or spy with insider trading secrets so the odds of me having high-level surveillance put on me are slim-to-none, if I’m being honest. So, in the words of a close friend and topic-pro, the vast majority of occurrences that make me paranoid that I’m being followed by a multiple-person surveillance team…are likely mere coincidences 9 times out of 10. On the chance they’re not, as high-order surveillance isn’t my lane, I’ll likely be reaching out to law-enforcement (if nothing but to establish precedence and open up a case-file) or tech/surveillance-professionals, whose lane it is. Then probably delve deeply into the reasons why I’d be a target considering my societal position. (erroneous target, a satellite to a known acquaintance with questionable ties, a financial-lender/creditor, high-order crime ring that perceives you having something of value, etc.)