Surveillance requires the right training, skill, knowledge, experience, timing, proper equipment and technology, and the most accurate background information on the subject of the surveillance. But most of all it requires patience.

Surveillance Investigations in PennsylvaniaWe have all seen the police and private detective shows on television and how quick and easy they make surveillance look. Remember, this is for dramatic effect and usually accomplished within a few minutes of setting up, and the subject of the surveillance is always observed doing something they shouldn’t be; otherwise the show would be boring. Rarely is this the case in reality.

The most requested service of private investigators in Allentown, PA, is surveillance; whether it is for workers’ compensation fraud, cheating spouse cases, internal theft investigations and non-competes just to name a few, this is the bulk of the work for most of the private investigation profession.

While most insurance companies, law firms, and third party administrators are aware of the in- and-outs of surveillance investigations simply because of the nature of their business, most private citizens requesting surveillance for the first time have many misconceptions.

The very first question usually asked by a private citizen is: “How long will it take you to catch them?” The honest answer from any private investigator should always be: “I don’t know, and we may not catch the subject doing anything.” We do observe people on surveillance doing things they shouldn’t be, BUT, no investigator should ever guarantee an outcome or timetable. If they do, it’s time to find someone else.

Here are some general guidelines to consider before calling a private investigator to conduct surveillance, which may help reduce the anxiety of hiring a private investigator.

FIRST TIME CALLER? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many private citizens call private investigators for cheating spouse cases, teen investigations, cohabitation and child custody issues, and small businesses for problems they routinely don’t experience.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? It all depends. The investigator will discuss your request and suggest an agreed upon budget based on how long you would like the surveillance to be conducted. Some requests are for a specific date and time frame and some are to monitor an individual for a certain period of time, usually until you, the client, decides that their suspicions have been validated, or not. Most times, the budget comes in to play.

WHEN SHOULD SURVEILLANCE BE CONDUCTED? The ultimate decision comes down to the person holding the purse strings, you. Once a consultation is conducted with the client, the investigator will make recommendations on when surveillance should be conducted, which is generally when the best window of opportunity presents itself for the subject to engage in potential questionable activity.


  • As with any other investigation, surveillance is a team effort with the client. You should expect to have communication with the investigator so the surveillance can be properly planned and carried out.
  • Status updates.
  • Photo and video documentation of the investigators findings.
  • A report detailing the investigation will be submitted.
  • Testimony from the investigator in any court proceedings based on their investigation.
  • Confidentiality. The investigation is only discussed with the client and/or their authorized representatives, and by any Order of the Court.
  • A signed Agreement with the private investigator prior to the start of the investigation, which outlines the responsibilities of the investigator and client.


  • Audio recordings of any type. This is against Pennsylvania Wiretap laws, which is a two-party consent state. Simply put, all parties being recorded via audio must consent unless a court order is issued, which is typically reserved for law enforcement activity.
  • Cell phone records including incoming or outgoing call or text messages from another person’s phone. Unless you are an authorized user on a cell phone plan and would routinely have access to this information, a court order is needed to obtain these records, which is the responsibility of an attorney if legally permissible. This is NOT the NSA.
  • Trespassing. All photo and video documentation is conducted from a legal vantage point. At no time will an investigator enter the property of another without their permission.
  • Most importantly, a prediction of what we may or may not discover, or how long it will take. Surveillance requires many things, patience and the understanding that the subject might not be discovered engaging in questionable activity are the reality.


  • Know your budget when deciding to call a private investigator for surveillance.
  • Ask the private investigator their background and experience. Most times you will find this information on their website if they have one.
  • Make sure they are licensed, bonded and insured. If not, steer clear. The investigator is working for you and it is your responsibility to make sure they are properly licensed to conduct the business of private detective in Pennsylvania, and are bonded and insured. They work for you, which could make you liable if you are not careful when hiring the right private investigator in Pennsylvania.
  • Check their website. Look for constant spelling and grammatical errors, and poor content and sentence structure. Chances are your final report will look the same.
  • When consulting with the investigator, it is usually a good rule of thumb to be able to summarize your case within the first 5-10 minutes. They need to know who the subject of the investigation is, what service you want them to provide and your budget, where it is going to take place, when you would like the investigation conducted, and why the investigation is being conducted.
  • If an Agreement is made between the investigator and client, then all the other details, such as descriptions of the subject(s) and vehicles, and any other pertinent information should be ready to give to the investigator.

In summary, conduct your research to find the right Pennsylvania private investigator, ask them the proper questions, and know your case details and budget. It doesn’t take long to start a case. Once the investigator agrees to take your case, an Agreement should be signed, retainer fee collected, and the investigation can start.

Jeff Reichart

Private investigators in Allentown, Bethlehem, Chester, Easton, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon, Pottstown, Pottsville, Reading, York,

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