We received an inquiry from a law firm that hires private investigators. They asked us what our agency believes to be the current consensus on the best color for vehicles for doing surveillance and if there is a preferred make/model. Well, I believe we can immediately rule out the colors red, orange, white, or any other bright colors.
Back in the late 90s/early 2000s, the local private investigator community of the individual who wrote us with this question said the school of thought was to avoid silver and navy blue. It was also said that some of the darker muted earth tone/natural colors were best in terms of being the most inconspicuous. Also, at that time, the Ford Taurus was such a commonly owned vehicle, that its make/model were recommended.
For surveillance, inconspicuous vehicles, well blended into the area, are used. Currently, the school of thought is gray or any other muted colors are best in terms of being low profile and not attracting attention. Vehicles shouldn’t be too clean, not brand new, not too big, not too small, and have no visible damage. Vans and motor cycles are also used. Professionals will never use flashy cars in loud colors (red, orange, yellow, white, etc.) for surveillance. License plates can be changed, but their number, as a rule, is limited, and eventually they can be figured out. From time to time different vehicles are used.
There are other factors investigators should consider besides the color or type of car they use for surveillance. An inconspicuous vehicle won’t do you much good if you aren’t careful with your surveillance methods.
Surveillance can be moving or stationary, sometimes with the use of electronic means (audio and video). Moving surveillance (when the target is followed) is also called shadowing or tailing.
The major problem for a detective conducting surveillance and shadowing is to avoid being “burnt” (when the subject has discovered his identity). Therefore the detective should not draw attention of people surrounding him/her.
The simplest form of surveillance is stationary surveillance. It is conducted from a fixed observation post which is located in a place where its presence is explainable, and where there is an opportunity to control all approaches to the subject (site).
Mobile surveillance (shadowing) is conducted in one of two techniques – either on foot or in vehicles.
When using one vehicle, tailing the target’s vehicle in the city and in the country require two different approaches. When tailing in the country, a distance must be maintained to keep from being “burnt.” On curves, when the target is out of sight, the detective will have to close the distance and then back off to a safe distance again. When tailing a target in the city, the detective has to keep a closer vigilance on the moving target’s vehicle because of the possibility of hitting a red light and losing the target. Not to be suspected, he will try to keep one or two vehicles between himself and the target. Two and more vehicles for surveillance give much more flexibility to detectives. The first car can remain behind the subject while the second car can be closely in front of him.