Tips for Private Investigators – Sticky Notes

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As part of a continuous effort to impart knowledge, shared experiences, and little “life hacks” to fellow investigators, I have embarked on mission to create short, useful videos of some “tricks of the trade” to assist the next generation of up-and-coming PI’s to get the most out of their surveillance and get great results for their clients. Many of these videos will focus on one little hack or tip to make your job out in the field easier, so you can concentrate on getting the money shot!

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory in Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something! Well, ten years in the field more than doubles that, so in the months to come I will compile a series of short (hopefully) beneficial tips to make life in your surveillance vehicle a little easier, and help you get results that stand out to your clients, or among your peers at the company.

In the first installment, we cover How to Use Sticky Notes! For just a couple dollars at an office supply store, pharmacy, or grocery store, you can get little Post-it notes. I bought a 4-pack a few years back and I am still not close to running out. I actually had them in my computer bag, where I was using them to make notes on invoices, when on one case I found myself stuck outside of a gated community, watching every car exit, trying quickly to identify each tag number. I kept repeating the tag over and over in my head, and looking down in this little notebook I had it written on. Eventually, I decided, instead of memorizing it, or constantly pulling out my notebook to check, I could just write the tag and vehicle info on a sticky note and put it right on my review mirror, in my eye-line, for easy access. I see a matching car, zoom in on the tag, quickly glance over to my sticky note, and rule out the vehicle until mine finally exited and I could initiate mobile surveillance.

It worked so well in that scenario that I began using it in others. Many times on insurance cases your client will provide information about an upcoming scheduled appointment, and that may be the first time you work the case. So you go through the comprehensive background report (comp report, for short), or take any client provided vehicle info, and write it on a sticky note, so when you have to drive all through a large parking lot or up multiple levels of a garage, you can quickly compare the vehicles you see against the license plate information you have right there in view. It really does make things easier and saves time. Plus, it’s safer to not have to look down at a pad or on your smartphone. It also works great when you lose someone (it happens) in traffic near some large area like a shopping mall and you have to go through the giant lot and search every car. If your subject drives something common, you’re going to want something that helps you rule out the wrong ones quickly and help you move onto to finding the right one, and saving your day of surveillance.
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