4. Here’s Looking At You – Kid

This month I’d like to talk about surveillance, what it is, and how our criminals and detectives can use it.

Surveillance is ubiquitous. We see traffic cameras on our roads. Businesses such as banks and retail stores keep track of people both inside and outside their establishments.  We have these devices in our homes, attached to our doorbells, or nanny cams to see what people are doing inside. We carry smart phones wherever we go, and GPS devices guide us to our destinations.    

Now, let’s see how our bad guys can use surveillance systems. You could have a rogue cop, Department of Transportation employee, or owner of a company access their organization’s equipment. Maybe they’re being blackmailed, or they could owe a large debt to their local loan shark and this is their way of paying it off. And there’s always that old standby, hacking. Accessing someone’s phone or car GPS system, your criminal discovers that his victim travels the same route home every day or frequents a favorite restaurant. He lies in wait and commits his crime. Or maybe he wants to frame someone else, committing a murder along the route the person takes every day. He wipes his fingerprints from the gun and throws it away in a wooded area along that route. You could have the wrongly accused suspect dragged away in handcuffs by the cop who framed him.

Your bad guy can get access to the victim’s home surveillance system and use it against him. A cat burglar who’s employed by a travel agent or company that schedules tours, sees that a wealthy couple leaves their home with suitcases. He knows they will be gone for a while. He hacks into their surveillance system and creates a loop of the feed into the monitoring company. This causes the video from the home to repeat as it is transmitted. Since nothing is moving in the house, system tracking doesn’t recognize that the feed is being looped. The burglar breaks in, takes the valuable jewels, and returns the system to normal operation when he leaves. No one knows he was there.

How can your detective use these devices? In the case of the wrongly accused suspect, his lawyer discovers that the rogue cop, who does not usually access surveillance systems as part of his normal duties, logged on with his own ID and password. He finds how the cop tracked the victim and used a gun that was untraceable. He also discovers a motive, possibly something that happened in the past.

He could find a brief hitch in the monitoring video to the surveillance company when the burglar looped the feed and again when he reset it.  He then traces the source of the hack and solves the case.

As you can see, mystery writers have ample opportunity to use surveillance systems in their stories. I would love to hear from blog readers how you use these systems.

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