Aug 13, 2008 News
Surveillance has always been used primarily to gather information; verify and expand information previously obtained; or when other information-gathering methods fail or are not applicable in a given situation.
Simply put, surveillance is secret observation to gain information. Criminals engaged in an illegal enterprise have been known to place surveillance on target establishments or businesses to plan their operation.
It is not unknown for citizens to have met their demise after being placed under criminal or hostile surveillance to determine when would be the safest time to carry out a ‘hit’.
For surveillance to be successful the subject has to be unaware of being watched and movements noted.
Unsuccessful surveillance has resulted from aroused suspicion on the part of the target. As a potential subject of hostile surveillance, there are several things you can do to make the watcher(s) task difficult.
You can ensure that you have at least a passing acquaintance with the residents of your neighbourhood which may help in identifying the presence of strangers (no matter how innocent appearing) in the area.
It has been suggested that when passing a suspicious character that you look the suspect in the eye and register his/her features if you feel that you are the subject of surveillance.
However, you should only attempt this if you are accompanied as caution should be your watchword at all times. Some subjects have been known to confront suspicious characters with unpleasant consequences.
Most times this measure forces the watcher to withdraw from the area and be placed at the disadvantage of finding a new vantage (and probably inconvenient) observation position.
It is important to note that not all watchers will be strangers to a particular area; it has been shown that in many cases the person who gathered the intelligence for their cohort was an established resident.
The point being made here is that not all persons who may look, dress or behave differently are to be considered automatic suspect.
The more current information that criminals have about a subject the more intelligently a crime can be planned and safely executed.
It is important to remember that although surveillance may be conducted over a period of several days, there is the likelihood that any possible criminal schedule could be adjusted based upon the subject’s own movements.
Among the several telltale signs of a surveillance operation are:
1. The suspect glances at a wrist watch particularly at the time when the subject arrives/departs, or goes about regular chores/exercise etc.
2. Watchers have been known to rely on their memory for certain details; however, for specificity, some make use of written notes concerning the subject(s) movements.
A person seen making jottings should be observed from a concealed position to ascertain as far as practicable his/her intentions.
The increased use of the cell phone makes the task of writing notes redundant as the watcher only has to place a call to his/her control on activities observed
3. The watcher(s) focusing intently on a particular building and/or its occupants while the subject is passing by; the time of passing may vary to get as much information on the movements and timings of the occupants.
4. Create an opportunity to observe in a surveillance-unfriendly zone by staging an apparent vehicle breakdown. This tactic has been employed effectively to commit robberies, etc.
5. Pretending to be couples engaged in lovemaking while keeping the subject under observation. There still remains an impression in the minds of many that females are not integrally involved in criminal activities and therefore are less suspect when acting the loving role.
Business persons and places are the targets of choice in any stable economy. Guyana is no different in this regard.
We intend to give our observations as they relate to the protection of the aforementioned subject categories of surveillance.
It has been established that the two places the citizen is most vulnerable are departing and arriving at home and arriving and departing the place of business.
The foregoing notwithstanding, the best advice that we can offer the business person for safe travel by vehicle when going to and from work is to vary your routine.
People have a tendency to fall into repetitious patterns-leaving their home at the same time every morning, stopping for the morning newspaper at the same vendor at the same time, going to lunch at the same time and to the same restaurant every day, etc.
In other words, the driving patterns for most people going to and from work hardly ever change from day to day. The fact is evident that people’s lives are more predictable on workdays as opposed to a weekend or a holiday.
Instances abound in many parts where attacks against businesses and business persons occur almost always on a workday.
This column will not cite examples of these audacious acts for obvious reasons, except to advise that you should avoid set routines, whether going to and from work, going exercising with a friend or family member, or going to church.
It is likely that some persons may be travelling abroad frequently, and therefore the following general precautions should be followed when travelling by vehicle:
Vary the times at which you leave for work; do the same when leaving work to go home. Take a taxi to work occasionally.
Call a friend and car pool once in a while. When driving, keep your doors locked and your windows opened only a crack, if at all.
Keep your ignition key separate to avoid delay when it is time to unlock the vehicle.
Never pick up hitchhikers or stop (particularly at night or early in the morning) for someone who is standing by what appears to be a disabled vehicle in an isolated location. Vary your routes to and from work.
Be surveillance-conscious. Periodically look in your rear view mirror and watch who is behind you.
Drive on major thoroughfares whenever possible. If you have good reason to believe you are being targeted, go directly to a police station and make a report.
If a police station is not convenient, go to another safe area, such as a fire station, hospital, 24-hour service station. Call 911 from that location and report your suspicions directly from the car.
Some cell phones have audio recording capability and you may wish to immediately note suspicious vehicles or individuals.
Do not stop your car if an attacker attempts to pull you over or block your movement; call 911 on your cell phone.
Blow your horn and blink your headlights on and off to attract attention. If stopped, do not leave the confines of your locked car unless absolutely necessary.
Whenever possible, attempt to park your car in a secure parking area. As far as circumstances allow do not leave your vehicle parked on the street unattended overnight.
Keep your vehicle locked, always checking inside and outside the car when reentering. As mentioned in a previous column, your vehicle should be well-maintained with the gas tank near full at all times; and there should be a usable spare tire in the trunk.
Remember that the above is not meant to be the sum total of what you can do to protect yourself and loved ones. Commonsense and good judgement are important in every possible scenario.
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