Surveillance Detection


I had an encounter yesterday with some unpleasant people while grocery shopping. When I got back to my car, they pulled up nearby at a somewhat odd angle in the parking lot. Since I wasn’t sure if they planned to initiate a confrontation, I quickly drove out of the lot.

After such an encounter, it’s prudent to take a Surveillance Detection Route that does not lead directly home afterward. Doing so isn’t particularly difficult but it does require a little thought at the time. You also need to use your rear view and side mirrors regularly during the process. And have a safe place to go if it turns out you are being followed.

First of all, turn out of the parking lot in the opposite direction that you would take to go home. As you drive, look for signalized intersections to turn onto non-arterial through streets. If possible, hit the red light. Sitting at the red light for a minute will allow you to scan the cars behind you without being an inattentive driver. Make at least three turns watching your mirrors after you turn. Contrary to popular opinion, they don’t all have to be Right Turns. Sitting in the Left Turn lane at a signal will frequently give you a better scan of the cars behind you by using your driver’s side mirror than you can get through the rear view mirror. You’ll also have a slightly longer view of the traffic behind you as they turn.

Image courtesy of US Department of State

What you are looking for is vehicles that repeatedly make the same turns as you do. It doesn’t have to be the same vehicle that was involved in the initial encounter. Pairs of people often have two cars and the other vehicle might be the one following you.

Once you go into the Surveillance Detection mode, make a conscious determination you aren’t being followed before you decide to head back in the direction of your home. If you are being followed, don’t go home. Go to a safe place. POlice stations are overrated as safe refuges because they are often unmanned after shift change. Even Atlanta Zone Headquarters in the middle of the afternoon are sometime completely locked up. A woman was murdered in the lobby of an unmanned small town POlice station a few years ago by her estranged husband who was following her.

A better choice is someplace that is usually occupied by some kind of First Responders. Fire stations are one example and hospital Emergency Rooms are another. Even these aren’t fool proof but they are generally a better bet than going to the POlice. Think about several possibilities ahead of time and have them in mind as contingencies if you do need to go into the Surveillance Detection mode.

You could also call 911 but that requires you to able to link up with a patrolling POlice car or go to some place you’re directed to by the dispatcher to wait for help. Waiting for help in a stationary location when you’re being followed is an invitation to disaster. Driving to a safe place is probably a better idea.

Sound your horn even before you get into the safe refuge. Turn on your flashers and, if possible, activate the car alarm. If you have any kind of defensive tool, think ahead about how you might employ it should the situation require. That’s another good reason not to have a pistol stashed under the front seat or some other place it might have shifted around from.

Usually, when someone following you realizes that you are aware they are following, they will break off the pursuit. Don’t count on it though. You want to be prepared to play the game completely to the end. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re NOT out to get you.

On a separate note, a reader of Thinking Clearly about Self-Defense and Personal Protection sent me the following note. It is spot on so I am reproducing it verbatim.

Hi Claude,

You might want to put a notice at the beginning of your book to make sure you have an Internet connection when reading the book, because a lot of the text won’t make sense until the reader reads the article at the hyperlink. And there are a lot of them.

Good thought. Thinking Clearly about Self-Defense and Personal Protection contains numerous references to incidents in The Real World™ to provide context for the concepts in my articles. For copyright reasons, I can’t reproduce the articles in the book, so I link to them. An internet connection will be invaluable for understanding the context behind many of the concepts.

Thanks for the tip. Winner, winner, he receives the complete package of my books with my compliments for his suggestion.

7 responses

  1. Claude, may I ask why your articles spell out POlice, instead of police? You may have mentioned it, but I have not been able to find an explanation.

    Thank you for all your thoughtful posts.

    1. It’s just Chicargo wordplay to simulate verbalizing a long O vowel and placing the emphasis on the first syllable.

  2. Good council for anyone who does not want to be surprised by the unpleasant people we find ourselves mixed in with.

  3. Robert Margulies

    Claude, as a Police Officer and an Emergency Physician, I have a bit of experience. ED’s are these days mostly locked and require either ID or an ambulance to enter, especially in hours of darkness. Many hospitals also lock all entrances after some arbitrary hour. Fire stations in some areas are staffed only with one crew, and they may be out. It would pay to be familiar with local policies, and perhaps add where there are stores and gas stations and their hours. KUTGW. Bob

    Robert Margulies, MD MPH FACPM FACEP FACFE

    If you stay fit, you do not have to get fit. If you stay trained, you do not have to get trained. If you stay prepared, you do not have to get prepared.


    1. Unfortunately, I have had to go or take friends to local ERs several times in the past year. ERs being locked has not been part of my experiences but I do live in a major metropolitan area. However, your comment shows the wisdom of having a plan for a safe place in advance.

  4. A few suggestions…

    1) Go by places that have cameras outside and let them photo you and whomever is following. Just so there is evidence of this happening.

    2) If you can contact a friend, have them wait at various places and check/photo anyone following you.

    3) Say in busy areas and do not go down dead in streets!!

    4) If you do confirm someone is following… 911 is who you call! Try to get their license plate # before calling.

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