ADS | Top Surveillance Techniques for Law Enforcement
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Top Surveillance Techniques for Law Enforcement (feat. Tactical Electronics)

Criminals are keenly aware of the threat posed by law enforcement and take great care to avoid detection. As a result, the stakes could not be higher for law enforcement. Every day, police officers put their lives on the line to protect their communities from violent criminals and organized crime syndicates. They do this knowing that one mistake could cost them their life.

The stakes are also high for law enforcement from a fiscal perspective. For example, the New York Police Department (NYPD) logged more overtime pay than any other major US city in 2020, but still experienced skyrocketing violent crime.

To lower this strain on resources and reduce the trend in arrest rates, many law enforcement agencies have turned to advanced surveillance techniques. Most criminals just aren’t expecting the following strategies as part of their daily routine.

Here are the top five law enforcement surveillance techniques to leverage, including highlights from Tactical Electronics’ covert surveillance equipment.


Drones are excellent surveillance tools for law enforcement, given their cost-effectiveness, portability, and versatility. They can use them in a wide range of covert surveillance situations, including narcotics investigations, search and rescue operations, and the monitoring of suspicious activity at the request of the FBI.

Drones can also be useful for tracking and monitoring suspects in real-time, which is a particular concern for criminal organizations that may use wildlife sanctuaries in the Caribbean to smuggle drugs into the United States.

Given drones’ portability, they can also monitor large gatherings such as protests, sporting events, or other special events where there may be concerns about public safety or security.

Drones pose a significant challenge to criminals because many are not in the habit of looking for them in the sky. This presents a unique opportunity for law enforcement to use them for surveillance in a wide range of situations.

However, drone use by law enforcement continues to be a topic of passionate debate by legislators. For example, in New York, the state legislature is considering a bill that would make it illegal for the NYPD to use a drone “to conduct the surveillance of public places or people,” which could make drone use more difficult in the state.

When law enforcement units are monitoring a public area or have a warrant on a property, remote surveillance options like this are the preferred solution.

Body and Under-Door Cameras

Body and under-door cameras are two other types of covert surveillance equipment that are increasingly being used to monitor criminal activity, collect evidence, and provide transparency in the criminal justice system. Body cameras also provide significant benefits to law enforcement in terms of cost savings, reduction in complaints, and increased safety.

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) completed its body camera expansion program in 2017 as an effort to increase transparency within the department and improve public trust following ongoing violent crime. The New York Police Department (NYPD) also instituted a pilot program for body cameras following the murder of Eric Garner.

While body cameras can provide significant benefits to police officers, they also impose some privacy implications, particularly when officers are in private residences or engaged in sensitive conversations. We must carefully weigh these privacy issues against the surveillance and data collection benefits body cameras provide to police officers.

Under-door cameras, like Tactical Electronics' SWIFT Under Door Camera, are industry-leading in their versatility. This device has four individual cameras housed within a 0.26" thick insertion panel, making it simple to install and difficult to detect. SWIFT comes with Ethernet and USB connectivity, as well as infrared illumination for maximum visibility in low- to no-light environments.

Optical tools like Tactical Electronics' CORE Pole Camera and CORE 8mm Video Scope help officers collect information in low light and visually obstructed environments.

Gunshot Detection Systems

Gunshot detection systems operate by using sensors that are strategically located in high-crime areas. When a gunshot is fired, the sound is picked up by the sensors, which then automatically triangulate the exact location of the shot.

This information is then sent to a computer system where it is mapped and analyzed. Agencies have used this type of surveillance equipment for law enforcement in cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. for years. Now, many smaller and mid-sized cities are adopting this technology.

Shot detection systems are most often used to respond to a potential crime scene more quickly and efficiently, but may also be used to track suspects and gather evidence.

Cell Phone Tower Dumps

Cell phone tower dumps are gaining popularity among the hundreds of law enforcement surveillance techniques available. While investigators have long been able to get information about a specific suspect’s cell phone and location, there are times when they need to see the information of all cell phone users in a certain area.

This is where tower dumps come into play. A cell phone tower dump involves requesting sometimes hundreds of thousands of data points—usually which cell phone numbers were used at a specific location during a given time frame.

This information can be extremely helpful in tracking down fugitives, identifying potential suspects, and locating missing persons. Given how much data is collected during a dump, law enforcement should only use the information pertinent to their request. Otherwise, it can be considered a breach of innocent individuals’ cell phone data.

Facial Recognition Software

Facial recognition software is another surveillance technique that law enforcement agencies are turning to in higher numbers to identify suspects. As law enforcement becomes increasingly reliant on Internet-based technology and data, facial recognition software has often become the answer to figuring out who is involved with what crime in less time.

Facial recognition software transforms images of human faces into biometric templates and compares them with real-world images to determine whether a specific individual has been located. Facial recognition software has the potential to improve public safety significantly by confirming crucial information in a short period, allowing officers to act more decisively.

The Bottom Line

Law enforcement and investigators need an ever-growing range of sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment to track and apprehend suspects. Tactical Electronics offers rugged surveillance tools that police officers and investigative professionals need for mission success.

Give your unit the tools they need to thwart criminals before it’s too late. Request a quote for Tactical Electronics gear today or contact us with any detailed questions.

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