Stalker and Surveillance Detection

There are a number of reasons why a person has the potential to be stalked or under surveillance in everyday life.

Everything from a spouse wanting to know if his or her husband or wife is having an affair to a criminal preparing to kidnap a wealthy banker, or a would-be robber wishing to learn of your routine prior to committing his or her crime.

In fact, did you know every 40 seconds someone is reported missing. Many are found, but a great number end up as kidnapped and ultimately as fatality statistics. 

Having the skills of detecting surveillance and thwarting it is an underappreciated survival skill many don’t learn.

It is an important tool to help you prevent becoming a victim.

Those wishing to do you harm follow the rules that all predators do. They watch before they attack and wait for the opportunity to get you alone.  

Situational awareness

We all know what looks normal for a neighborhood. Perhaps we see the same cars go by, or people walking their dogs, or certain landscaping trucks, or the same well-marked service vans serving an area.

Without realizing it, what we have done by observing these normal details is establish a baseline. Every place, whether it is an urban, suburban, or rural setting, has its baseline of regular activity.

The first step in surveillance detection (SD) is to be alert to changes in this baseline. 

These can come in many guises. Sometimes, it could be a person pretending that his car is broken, or someone knocking on your door who just doesn’t seem right, perhaps pretending to try to sell you something.

In the city, someone might be loitering in a doorway, seemingly drinking a cup of coffee, but he or she still has the same cup in his hand two hours later.

Whenever someone seems out of place, let them know that you see them. One of the best tools available now is your cell phone camera. Take the person’s picture. Those doing the surveillance don’t want to be caught in the act, or “rolled up.” 

As a SEAL, many of our missions required us to conduct reconnaissance or surveillance. It enables us to collect intelligence on possible targets and plan for follow-up missions. Once, when in the Balkans, my team occupied an abandoned house as our Observation Point for the surveillance of a particular neighborhood of interest. In that instance, we got rolled (in military speak, this means that you are discovered, the Op is blown, and it is time to leave) because the locals sent in five kids, making believe they came into the house to play hide-and-seek. They immediately reported their findings, and we hauled ass. It was a very effective form of counter-surveillance.

What to do if you are being followed

If you are alert and practicing situational awareness, you may see a car in your rear-view mirror that seems to be taking the same route as you. If walking, you could find it odd to notice that same person you saw ten blocks ago is still behind you. Most times, predators, especially if setting up for a kidnapping or robbery, repeat their observations for days or for weeks.

You will want to be prepared and ready to thwart a would-be attacker if they were to decide to pursue you. It’s time like this where having a weapon on hand to protect yourself is wise. However, if you do not have any weapon available, you can also use objects around you as improvised weapons to protect yourself. One example of this would be a flashlight in the dark. Not only can you cause attention to yourself if you're in need, but you can also use it as a weapon if need be.

Here are some ways you can counter surveillance:

1. Change your routine. 

If you always leave your house or apartment at 8:00 am, for example, leave earlier or later. Enter a highway at a different exit, or take a different road or street to the store you usually go to. There are many ways to alter your routine without changing your life. But this will make you an unpredictable target, and those looking for an easy mark will likely look for an easier victim.

Lose your eyes—Surveillance Detection Route (SDR)

If you want to determine if someone is actually following you, there are a number of ways to do so. If you suspect someone is trailing your car, make a series of right or left turns, or box around a particular area until you return to the same spot. No casual driver would still be behind you at this point. Do the same thing if on foot in a city. If you do this effectively, you could even have the person who is following you now in front of you. You can wave, or take their picture. At any rate, you have won by letting them know that you see them.

2. Set up an ambush

If those following seem to be more sinister, such as a group of men in a car, you can lead them into a trap. Once you have determined that you’re being followed, you can feign that you are still unaware. Use your survival skills of remaining calm under pressure. You continue your route, but call the police and inform them of the situation. You can describe the car or person in detail and coordinate with the police to lead the potential attackers to a certain intersection or specific location. 

Anyone affected by stalking can testify to the intense feelings of discomfort that come with unwanted attention and pursuit. Take the steps to ensure your safety and stay ahead of any would-be surveillance attempts in your area.

Be a survivor, not a statistic,

Cade Courtley
Former Navy SEAL / 4Patriots Contributor

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