A Guide To Surveillance

The first question you may be asking is – what is surveillance? Surveillance is the monitoring of behaviour, activities or other changing information. It can be used for intelligence gathering, preventing crime, protection or investigating crime.


There are a huge number of avenues in surveillance; these include:

  • Commercial surveillance
  • Employment surveillance
  • Personal injury
  • Theft eg fuel
  • Environmental crime
  • Financial fraud
  • Wildlife (surveillance of invasive species, illegal fishers and poachers, population abundances of endangered species and diseases)
  • Computer surveillance (monitoring data and traffic on the Internet)
  • Telephone surveillance (monitoring calls, location, activating microphones in mobile phones remotely)
  • Video surveillance (use of cameras and CCTV)
  • Social network analysis (can be used to distinguish groups of people)
  • Biometric (analysing human and behavioural characteristics, for example fingerprints, DNA and facial patterns)
  • Aerial (gathering of surveillance from an airborne vehicle)
  • Data mining and profiling (assembling information to generate a profile of an individual or group)
  • Radio frequency identification (use of small electronic devices which are applied or incorporated to identify and track using radio waves)
  • Global positioning system (GPS tracking devices can be planted into vehicles to monitor movements)
  • Covert listening devices (hidden electronic devices/ ‘bugs’ which are used to capture, record and/ or transmit data)

We will be discussing a range of different of aspects related to surveillance to give our readers a comprehensive understanding to surveillance operations and training.

History of Surveillance

With current methods and technologies suggesting that surveillance is a product of the 21st century, history illustrates that this is not the case. In the past, surveillance would’ve been referred to as ‘spying’ or ‘espionage’.

The original surveillance state in the United Kingdom was formed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth (November 1558), she started the national security that began the tradition of British espionage. The Queen had her own ‘watchers’; many were assigned to routine work, which included listening around towns and cities and reporting back to base.

In addition, some saw the job as a religious duty – they were God’s chosen people. At this time, Britain was divided by religion as Elizabeth I was Protestant whilst Mary, who many believed deserved the throne, was Catholic. Catholic nations surrounded England so the plot to restore Mary as the rightful heir was a reason why Elizabeth had to be wary of her safety. Often it was the loyalists to the Catholic Church and Mary who were the common targets of interrogation to prevent any assassinations or attacks on the Queen.

One of the most famous spies under Elizabeth I was John Dee. He carefully reported on the position of the Spanish court during it’s war with England. It is believed he used a wax pentacle to predict stormy weather, allowing the English to wait for the storm to destroy the Spanish Armada rather than attacking them. In each private letter to Elizabeth, he signed it with ‘007’ – the tag later adopted in James Bond.

Sir Francis Walsingham was the Spymaster who managed the surveillance system for Elizabeth. The complex system included stations all over Europe and he recruited the spies and agents for the Queen. Often described by others as ruthless, Walsingham instructed his staff to torture the captured to reveal plots and fellow conspirators in the Tower of London’s chambers.

Other prisoners would be placed in a dungeon called ‘Little Ease’ in which there would be no room to lie or sit and instead be forced into a fetal crouch by a iron instrument called the ‘Scavenger’s Daughter’ until they bruised and haemorrhaged. Based upon the outcome, those who lived may be disembowelled, drawn and quartered for treason.

Specialists were also hired who intercepted, copied and decoded messages – these spies were highly educated and the job required an understanding of Latin and all major European languages. They used the methods of the 9th century Arabian scholar, Abu Yusuf al- Kindi who invented cryptography. Once the specialists discovered a few letters, the rest became a puzzle of filling in the blanks. They used false symbols to fool those who may attempt to crack the codes. Walsingham now held the ‘Book of Secret Intelligences’, which would’ve held codes, agents and alphabets.

The watchers did their job well; Queen Elizabeth reigned until she died from a natural death in 1603 with secret teams spread across the world, always listening.

More recently, there are key figures in society who have been placed under surveillance. Albert Einstein was placed under surveillance shortly after he emigrated to America by the Federal Bureau of Investigation due to his alleged ties to communism. Princess Diana had her phone calls monitored and recorded by the National Security Agency until she died in 1997.

Benefits of Surveillance

Surveillance is often a controversial topic with privacy issues looming but the benefits illustrate that using surveillance in an organisation is a necessity. The first, and most obvious benefit of surveillance is a reduction in crime; using surveillance enables an organisation to identify malpractice.

Another advantage is being able to continuously monitor people, places and vehicles; producing evidence is fundamental. Identifying and legitimising claims and information is another advantage of surveillance, often claims are made and these need to be confirmed or disproved. This can provide law enforcement with critical footage to be admitted into evidence.

Using surveillance also enables organisations to save money. This could be on insurance costs and preventing employee theft. Often the presence of surveillance, for example cameras in the workplace, is a deterrent. It has the potential to turn thieves away. With regards to insurance costs, companies and business owners can reduce their insurance premium by adding a security system and having surveillance can stop compensation fraud of a workplace accident.

Types of Covert Surveillance

With a primary focus in ‘covert’ surveillance, learning to observe someone or something without their knowledge is a key principle in training. Covert surveillance is performed for a huge variety of reasons. One end of the spectrum is the operational wing: hiring a private investigator to prove or disprove suspected infidelity, observing employees suspected of fraudulent activities; whilst the opposite end of the spectrum involves gathering intelligence on areas such as forced labour, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The list is truly endless.

Covert surveillance is often used by governments, military and private sector groups. These groups often attend training courses on Rural and Urban covert surveillance to learn a rounded skill set. CROPS’ have concentrated on developing the most inclusive Rural and Urban courses available in this industry.

Our Urban ‘foot and mobile surveillance’ course focuses upon the city environment. Over a seven day period, our students will progress through intermediate foot and mobile surveillance skills to give a solid platform into this discipline. Students then move onto the creation of vehicle hides and gathering filmed evidence. This course covers two subjects taught by no other course – learning about the ‘magic box’ and understanding what ‘defendable space’ is. Students will also receive full training in the deployment tactics used in GPS vehicle tracking.

Alongside the Urban ‘foot and mobile surveillance’ course, the Rural surveillance course is also carried out by the majority of students; they will be taught advanced methods of rural surveillance. The techniques taught are used today by Special Forces in order to collect intelligence by the infiltration of the target, and the use of covert imagery. These green skills include camouflage and concealment, advanced methods of rural hide construction, operating in isolated positions, covert video and still photography, to mention just a few.

Our Surveillance Courses

In addition to the above courses, CROPS runs numerous teaching programmes in different aspects of surveillance to enhance the knowledge of all people who walk into the training school. To begin, the 5 day technical surveillance triggers and clueing course is a specialised course; designed for the modern day technical operator. They would find themselves deploying 3G covert camera systems and technical triggering devices due to the target being either very surveillance aware of it being considered too hostile to get in close. On this course, 4 different covert systems are used – these include OWL (observation without limits), RATS (remote area tagging system), TICS (triggering initial contacts) and VT (vehicle tag).

Our next course to discuss is aimed at individuals or groups within specialist organisations who regularly deploy technical camera systems in order to gather video evidence. Our covert camera construction and deployment is fast becoming the ‘sort after’ course. We aim to teach the students the fundamentals of what component parts are required, how these are then integrated in the construction of a covert system, reconnaissance of the intended camera site and finally the stages to the actual placement of a covert camera system. The final stage of the covert camera construction deployment course is a real time placement exercise in order to confirm these new found technical skills, This truly is a rewarding course.

For those who prefer one 2 one sessions, our tradecraft sessions are perfect. The student can choose the subject they are interested in or gather assistance on rehearsing for a live operation in the future. Subjects chosen in the past include refreshers in mobile surveillance, foot surveillance, public transport and also areas such as urban hide construction, operating from vehicles and low light photography.

We also host a number of associated skills training courses. Our first one is the 2 day technical GPS mobile tracking. By the end of the courses, our students will be confident with their knowledge and understanding of how to covertly deploy a GPS tracking device. This includes being able to read and analyse the tracker information panel, set up a GPRS technical fence around the subjects vehicle and the tactics to conduct a rapid retrieval at the end of the task.

The next associated skills course is a perfect training programme to complete for those who have recently finished a foot and mobile surveillance course. This course called the 3 day static observation platforms course teaches our students one of the most valuable aspect of any urban surveillance operation – how to operate in a static location for long periods without being compromised. In real time situations, the subject may not leave their property for the entire time whilst being on task, this renders foot and mobile skills useless! Our course contains the missing syllabus from all foot and mobile courses on today’s market.

Finally is our 2 day tactical photography skills course. We start teaching the basics of how to operate a digital SLR camera, which function setting is best for which job, different lenses and their capability. The more surveillance orientated skills include controlling the size of the camera lenses when shooting through foliage and the correct use of shutter speed. On the second day of the course, we look at different equipment mounts including our own bespoke mount which is not currently available on today’s market. We teach how to construct a basic hide and concealed camera platform whilst identifying the correct deployment of IR ambush lighting, environment and atmospheric effects when photography is used over greater distances.  

Surveillance Requirements

A surveillance operator will be expected to endure extreme environmental hardships and display physical and mental strengths well beyond accepted levels of human endurance. They must remained focused at all times as surveillance can be boring and tedious work, especially if operating from a confined space.

They must be completely confident in their task, whether working alone or as a member of a team, be highly skilled with all their equipment and have common sense. Sometimes deductive reasoning and logic will be required to make quick decisions. In emergencies, surveillance operatives cannot be prone to poor judgement or reaction – this could prove disastrous for the operation.

They must not be afraid to think and work outside the box. Moreover, being a confident speaker is also relevant. Being able to make a solid cover up story at the drop of a hat to not reveal their true identity to an inquisitive third party. It is important to be honest; security personnel need to be trusted to stay attentive and to keep their job to themselves. In this industry, it is vital to ensure that the work stays away from public knowledge.

The best operatives have a military background in disciplines such as reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence. Continual use of their skills will turn these people into slick operators. Most of all they must accept that surveillance is not just a job, but a way of life, never 9 to 5 and Monday to Friday, but a life that will see them work 18 hour days, miles from home in all weather conditions. The best operatives are not lazy and rarely take the easy option, they graft and dig deep inside themselves to achieve what others said was impossible!

Surveillance Planning

Before any surveillance can take place, there must be an element of planning and preparation, a comprehensive plan needs to be written. It would begin by receiving reports/ tip offs on someone or something; this could be anything from a report of an individual fly tipping or suspicions of a member of staff stealing from their employer. Interviewing the client to gather as much information as possible is important. We work on 4 different stages of questions to be asked;

  • Stage 1 – the client’s intent. Reason for the surveillance? What are you hoping to achieve from the surveillance? Do you have any evidence or paperwork that could be of any use? What are the plans for the evidence gathered?
  • Stage 2 – subjects detailed. Recent photograph of the subject? Home address and telephone numbers? Work address? Hobbies and interests? Daily pattern of life? What vehicle do they drive?
  • Stage 3 – details related to subject. Addresses of usual haunts eg pubs, private clubs and friends/ family? Details of associates? Other vehicles they may use? Addresses of schools if applicable?
  • Stage 4 – any other information. A-H card: method of logging a person’s details and SCRIM card: method of logging vehicle details.

It also may be useful to conduct local enquiries – whether this is talking to the postman, milkman or a member of staff in the corner shop.

Now the client has been interviewed, the next stage is to conduct a close target reconnaissance of the local area and the immediate area in detail. It is important to look for the route in, drop off points, covered approaches by road or on foot, obstacles, trigger positions, points which will be overlooked by third parties and team pick up points, to name just a few! Once this has been conducted, CROPS’ fully understand what they are facing and how to best achieve their objectives.

We would then have to accumulate a series of data in order to decide on the best plan of action – asking questions like when is the individual carrying out the act and how often does it occur. Based upon this, we can analyse the information to decide on how to best go about the surveillance operation. We would need to look at the size of team required, how the team will be made up, timings, communications, type of vehicles used, equipment, specialist equipment and costing.

Next, the mission is broken up into several phases:

  • Preliminaries – head count, attachments, duration of task, client details, map details, moon state, weather during task
  • Ground – magic box, plot, pick up, trigger locations, in general, in detail, route in, route out, safe havens, target area
  • Situation – movements in the last 24hrs and last 48hrs. Has the subject been under surveillance before?
  • Mission – to gather the required evidence by covert film, still imagery and or audio recordings to allow the client to take appropriate action
  • Execution – this section is now broken down into different phases, the type of operation you are conducting will dictate this. If you wish to learn more into the execution side of a live operation, take part in CROPS’ rural surveillance course or purchase the training manual

Once the task has been accomplished, the final product is then given to the clients. They may use it as evidence to prosecute.

Surveillance Equipment

In order to carry out surveillance, having the correct equipment is fundamental. We have constructed a list of what we deem to be important;

Personal equipment – Urban deployment (bail out bag contents)

  • Camcorder & spare battery
  • Covert camera system & spare battery
  • Solar charger
  • Dictaphone
  • Spare SD Cards
  • Loose change
  • Credit card / passport / driving licence / oyster card
  • Hat / Cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Lightweight reversible jacket
  • Reading magazine
  • Other items may be required dependant on the task

Personal equipment – Rural deployment

  • Covert wireless/ hard wired camera systems
  • Covert listening devices and recorders
  • Technical motion detectors and ground sensors
  • Still/ video cameras and spare batteries
  • Visual optics and spare batteries
  • Tripods (small, medium and large)
  • Team’s signal equipment complete with batteries
  • Spare video tapes and SD cards
  • Emergency flares
  • Sleeping bag or hide suit
  • Bivi bag (optional)
  • Roll sleeping mat
  • Poncho with cord attached
  • Warm kit (jacket and trousers)
  • Ghillie suit
  • Hat and gloves
  • Gore tex suit and socks
  • Spare socks and foot powder in waterproof bag
  • Small wash kit
  • Water and rations
  • Gas cooker, pot or metal mug to boil water in and spoon
  • Two disposable lighters
  • 500m of thin paracord on a fishing reel
  • 10 tent pegs
  • Hide folder and log books
  • Hide construction poles
  • Cyalume light sticks
  • 10 sandbags

With regards to personal clothing, adopting the ‘layering’ system is important. The technique of wearing different layers of clothing and taking them off when required is the most effective way. Wearing layers in the winter preserves your body heat by trapping the air warmed by the body between each layer of clothing. As you get warmer from physical activities, you can remove layers to cool down and prevent sweating. If the clothing is covered in sweat, the body first has to dry the item before it can warm the body. The time of year will dictate how many layers to opt for, normally three to four in the winter is the maximum.

Carried by each operator – Waterproofed and attached to clothing by cord and carabiner

  • Mapping, air photographs and route card
  • Compass and GPS
  • Glow in the dark watch
  • Commanders card and pencils
  • Pacing beads or clicker
  • Head torch with coloured filters and spare batteries
  • Small knife
  • Camouflage cream
  • Personal role radio system with semi covert earpiece

Team equipment – The equipment will be distributed between the operators

  • Patrol’s medical park
  • 2 ground sheets
  • Large reel of green garden string
  • 1 law saw with wood and metal hacksaw blades
  • 2 small folding wood saws
  • 2 garden secateurs
  • Camouflage nets (1 between 2) and thermal sheets
  • Ghillie blanket
  • Blind frame and poles
  • Roof and door sections
  • Digging tools
  • Drops, pins and bulldog clips
  • Waste bottles and bags for hygiene

Hostile environments

  • Ammunition for all weapon systems
  • Signal and screening smoke grenades
  • Claymore mines and other defences
  • Helmet body armour and Kevlar hide blanket

Specialist equipment

  • Ropes and other climbing gear
  • Small chainsaws
  • Helicopter marker panels
  • Anything else that is task related!

Vehicle kit – Listed below is the minimum required kit carried by any surveillance vehicle

  • Sat-Nav
  • Multiple 12volt cigarette sockets / power inverter 500watt / leisure battery
  • Phone hands free kit
  • Glass cleaning spray and cloths
  • Hi-Vis vest / white helmet / pretext kit
  • A-Z map book
  • Tools / bolt cutters / med-kit / multi tool
  • Engine oils and fluids
  • Toilet abilities
  • Spare wheel & locking nut / jack / tow strap / jump leads / light bulbs / fuses / ice scraper / snow spade or chains / tyre repair spray
  • Notebook and pencils
  • Hats / caps / sunglasses
  • Air freshener / spray
  • Head torch and spare batteries
  • Break down cover with recovery UK wide!

Static hide kit

  • Rope bag with ground sheet
  • Black coveralls
  • Large tripod
  • Camera light proof bag
  • TAC wedge
  • Door Clinch
  • Loft access kit
  • Construction kit
  • Fabric wall drops
  • Internal door drop
  • CROPS window box
  • Free standing screen

Editing peli

  • SONY DVR recorder
  • DVD player
  • AV Leads complete and various
  • Editing forms / pens / DVD sleeve / labels / envelopes / stamps
  • Blank DVD’s
  • Power chargers
  • Extensions power lead (multiple sockets)
  • Plug adaptors overseas travel

Overnight grip

  • Gym kit to include swimming stuff
  • Full change of clothing (day time)
  • Full change of clothing (evening wear & shoes)
  • Wash kit & Flip flops
  • Door wedge
  • Multi plug socket


Surveillance should only be conducted for legitimate reasons with the aim of gathering evidence that, if necessary should be admissible in a court of law. All evidence should be accurate and truthful and must comply with current legislation. The laws concerning the gathering, storing and disclosure of surveillance evidence vary from country to country and there can be different evidential criteria for criminal and civil matters. The authority responsible for tasking, conduct and disclosure of surveillance evidence is also different for public and private bodies so it is essential that surveillance operatives have a clear understanding of the legislative framework prior to tasking.

The Human Rights Act 1998 allows for UK legislation to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights without having to go to the European Courts of Human Rights in Strasbourg. UK courts can now make judgements directly on matters concerning the human rights contained in the convention. The Act contains a number of articles and protocols and is a weighty and complex document. However only two articles or sections are directly relevant to surveillance and gathering evidence. This is Article 6 – the right to fair trial and Article 8 – the right to a private and family life.

There are 3 key principle that surveillance must comply with. These are:

  • Legal, the surveillance is carried out in a legal manner
  • Necessary, it is necessary process to achieve the aim
  • Proportionate, surveillance is only as intrusive as necessary to achieve its aim

Another legislation is the Investigatory Powers Act 200 (RIPA) which regulates the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance. It is only relevant to private surveillance and investigation companies if they are acting on behalf of a public body. Therefore, surveillance and investigations between private organisations are not bound by the specific regulation of RIPA.

In addition to this, all surveillance and investigation companies hold a certain amount of information about individuals. They must register with the Information Commissioner’s Office for a small fee and seek advice on the best methods for processing and storing the data they hold.

Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the definition of harassment is ‘behaviour which causes alarm or distress’. The act becomes more relevant on compromise, if the target becomes aware of the surveillance, to continue with the surveillance can be perceived as harassment. Once it is clear you have been compromised withdraw as professionally as possible and as covertly as possible to avoid the accusation of harassment.

It is also important to understand trespass, it involves the wrongful interference with someone else’s land or property. As surveillance operators, you can take filmed evidence of private land as an investigation but that must be from a public location where ant member of the public would have a natural vantage point – not climbing walls or trees to gain height. However, it is possible to gain written or verbal permission from private landowners.

With regards to CCTV, the Data Protection Act takes into account the use of domestic CCTV systems for your own private security and does not expect every householder to register with them. If a person enters a property covered by CCTV the owner does not need to put up notices, nor is he required to provide a copy of the film. However, if CCTV cameras pick up images outside the premises, then the principles of the Data Protection Act need to be considered and a sign put up.

Any surveillance operation needs to be carried out lawfully. Operatives need not only to understand the general principles of privacy, intrusion and the custody of evidence but also the specific legislation as it applies to each task.


To conclude, it is now clear that surveillance monitors behaviour, activities or other changing information. It can be done through many methods and is necessary in today’s society. Surveillance is everywhere and it’s believed that there is one surveillance camera for every 11 people in Britain. Therefore, taking part in one of CROPS’ extensive training courses can give you the skills required to stand in this exciting and dynamic industry. Whether it’s identifying malpractice, monitoring people continuously, producing evidence or saving money; the advantages clearly illustrate the importance of CROPS on individuals, groups and businesses. We can create one to one links to meet the needs and requirements of clients; teaching a particular area or being mobile and travelling overseas to the clients HQ. We really pride ourselves in being the leading provider of surveillance training programmes worldwide. Our previous students have travelled from all over the world to carry out a CROPS training programme – we are truly setting standards in this area.

Due to our rotation system, our instructors conduct live operations (including manned surveillance operations, GPS tracking and covert camera placements) as well as training, this enables our students to continuously benefit from current operational knowledge. Our  instructors currently conduct over 250 hours of live surveillance each month. We can promise you a relaxed but professional training school within 200 acres of English countryside. We have invested heavily in our training and equipment and will provide our students will all the required equipment to ensure our students have the best possible training environment.

Alongside this, CROPS’ reputation in live operations has grown year by year. Specialising in covert surveillance and concealed camera placements we utilise the unique skills of former military and police. Our surveillance teams have backgrounds in reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence gathering, they are totally self reliant and fully equipped to deploy on any task at short notice. CROPS always provides a confidential, discreet and professional service to our clients, we are proud of our reputation as a company who succeed where others have failed. So, what’s stopping you … whether it’s live operations you’re after, or taking part in a training course? Get in touch with CROPS’ today.