Ask any private investigator about their most important equipment, and they'll probably tell you its their brain. You see, they're a funny bunch, and while they need a keen instinct for dodgy behaviour, they're nothing without the standard tools of the trade. The role of a private investigator is quite varied; as such, you'll need an array of equipment to ensure your hard work results are recorded correctly.
One day you could be waiting for an insurance fraudster to appear from their home without any signs of the injury they're claiming for; the next day, you might be recording a corrupt business person explaining their next dodgy deal. You'll need different tools for these very different jobs.
Car or Scooter
Not specifically specialist equipment, but you'll certainly need a means of getting about. In big cities, a scooter or small motorcycle might be your best choice, although a stakeout in the rain may be better performed in a warm car. Either way, you'll want something inconspicuous, cheap to run and relatively quick.
While you'll spend a lot of time trailing targets, in many cases, you'll have addresses of workplaces and associates of your target. The last thing you want to be late to a sting, so use sat nav to get there quickly while avoiding traffic.
It might sound very basic and a little old fashion to be carrying a map, but you cant know every single place in the UK, and sometimes you can be sent to some obscure places. Maps are great because they never run out of battery or lose signal. Keep a UK road map in your boot or bag for emergencies.
Hidden cameras are essential for collecting evidence without tipping off or alerting the subject. David Munslow is a private detective from Nottingham. He regularly uses hidden cameras to gather evidence of cheating spouses meeting up with people they shouldn't or insurance fraudsters working when they claim to be injured. His method of concealment is a bag from which the lens of his spy camera protrudes almost invisibly.
Nobody bats an eyelid when David puts his hidden bag camera down. For long-distance work, he uses a long-lens lightweight video camera. This enables him to hold it for long periods without getting tired while remaining ready to get that all-important snap of evidence. David told the Nottingham Evening Post of his time watching an insurance fraudster;
"I was just watching. It's difficult to get across to people the concept, we sit still, watching the door, concentrating for two hours. I can't read or do the crossword because when the door opens I need to have the video camera ready in seconds. "If they drop something and bend down to pick it up without thinking then that footage may have real relevance."
Top tip; always carry backup batteries.
Listening devices, especially those that enable you to listen through walls, can help with an investigation. Still, they're mainly used for longer-scale, high-risk operations where its dangerous to get too close to a subject. For example, government agencies and large firms may use long-distance listening devices to gather evidence.
Audio and voice recording devices
Discreet and disguised recording devices are essential for private investigators. Its all very well putting someone in a certain place at a certain time with a photograph, but often thats not enough to prove anything. Discreet audio and voice recorders, such as those disguised as everyday items like calculators or smartphones, are essential. Several high-profile busts, from the Fake Sheikh scandal and the recent Cash for Questions scandal, couldn't have been done without high-quality audio recordings.
GPS car trackers
If its too risky to track a target in person, you can use a GPS car tracking device to gather data on the routes that they've taken in their car. This can often be enough to prove to a suspicious boss or spouse that someone has been somewhere they shouldn't—a great way to collect solid evidence without putting yourself at risk.