Listening and Watching – Day 15

2013-01-12 22.01.02
We needed to get in under a house and place some bugs in the floorboards or floor heater vents to listen to the occupants and also we needed to watch the occupants in their coming and going – we could do that from across the street.  The people were involved in, among other things, drug and gun distribution – bad people tied in with lots of other bad people in the area.  These people needed to be taken off of the streets along with their handlers and mules.

We first had to set up our monitoring post.  When that was stable, we then could set up our video system across the street from the house.  And finally, we needed to get under the house.  Setting up took several weeks, for sure.

Our watching and listening post was a small room in a larger building next to a tall tower maybe a mile away from our target’s residence.  We were able to set up our video and audio receiving devices in the room and put antennas up on the tower.  It was cozy and safe.  People stood watches in the room for several weeks – watching and listening.

2013-01-16 13.11.25The perpetrator lived in a normal looking single level home with a crawl space underneath it.  The house was situated in an older part of town on a curvy street with houses all around it – by all appearances the area looked like a fairly normal neighborhood.  Families, kids, bikes, sidewalks, trees.

After we set up the surveillance post, we then had to set up a video and audio ‘repeater’ on a telephone and power pole across the street from the perpetrator’s house.  We took our bucket truck, put a power company emblem on the doors, dressed up in some work clothes, and drove up under the power pole in the middle of the day.  This was summer time so in not too many minutes, we had kids standing around watching us do our work.  Well, this was normal for a neighborhood so we worked away to mount another transformer can up on the pole. It all looked very official.  Thing is, this was a special can – it had video and audio capability built into it.  Most of the work was not getting our special can mounted on the pole but, rather, getting a radio connection between the can and our post over the hill.  After fiddling for awhile, we finally got it.  It all worked and the video feed was working fine and the kids had a great time watching us work for the morning.

After understanding the patterns of the occupants at our target house, we went in as telephone people.  We had previously broken their telephone service so now they truly needed some phone service to get their phones back.  The plan was – Bob would go under the house and I would stay in the van and be reading a newspaper.  If anything happened, I would cover for Bob and would notify Bob and then he would have to adapt.

So, we parked in front of the house, Bob got his tools, and I got back in the van and commenced reading – and watching.  Bob knocked on the door.  Funny, no one home.  Too bad.  Oh well, he needed to work on their phone service anyway.  They would appreciate us getting their phones working again. Bob waved and headed to the backyard to get under the house.  So far so good.

2013-01-16 15.25.58But then things went awry.  A lady occupant of the house drove up into the driveway.  I quickly notified our backup people so they could come save us if something went bad.  I jumped out of the van and went up to the lady and introduced myself and said Bob was under the house working on the phones.  She, admittedly, seemed more suspicious than a normal person would act but she grudgingly agreed that things were ok but she said she wanted to talk to Bob.  I said I would go get Bob and we could talk about her phone outage.

I was walking around the corner of the house and bumped into Bob.  He had heard the kerfuffle out front and had been able to quickly finish up his work and get out from under the house.  And the phones worked again, too.  We briefly talked with the lady.  Bob said something about him finding some wires that were broken or lose but assured her that things should be working again.  She seemed hesitant and seemed to be holding back a bit but she was alright with things and that was that.

And our installation worked perfectly.  Audio from several rooms and video of the front porch and yard.

I always felt a bit uncomfortable during and after capers like this.  We couldn’t be doing things like what we did unless there had been huge amounts of legal reviews and approvals.  Many people necessarily signed off on operations like this one – and this one was pretty simple.  Our purpose was to legally obtain evidence against bad people like this with which the courts could then try them and, very likely, convict them.  It all intellectually made sense and, I guess, was all done for the right reasons.  But I always was and am today very sensitive to personal privacy issues and concerns.

Without too much effort, a person’s privacy can be compromised.  Thankfully, we live in a country where our right to privacy is highly protected.  But if a rogue individual opted to pry and spy, it would be quite simple.  Be careful with your personal information – especially online.  There may be nasty people out there watching you.  Better safe than sorry.

And yes, later a bunch of these people and others in other states were tried and  convicted for their combined crimes.  Good for us and the many who have and are currently working on cases like this.

A memory…

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