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New Jersey Surveillance Investigations

Bob Cowan - Owner of Cowan Investigations, a New Jersey Private Investigator

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New Jersey Surveillance is defined as:  “the act of carefully watching someone or something especially in order to prevent or detect a crime”.   The definition does not take into account that Licensed New Jersey Private Investigators does not only conduct surveillance involving criminality. The larger part of New Jersey Surveillance Activities conducted by New Jersey Private Investigators are for other purposes. The basis for these New Jersey Surveillance Activities will be explained further on in this article.

A little bit about the experience I have in New Jersey Surveillance Activities 

I will be authoring several articles related to New Jersey Private Investigators and their role regarding New Jersey Surveillance. I am writing to assist the lay person understand the concept of New Jersey Surveillance and its practical application. The use of surveillance as an investigative tool by New Jersey Private Investigators is indispensable. This article will explain what New Jersey Surveillance is about, what goes into surveillance and why surveillance necessary.

I am the former Chief of the Jersey City Police Department with close to thirty-five years experience.  Jersey City is New Jersey’s second-largest municipality with the States second larges Police Department. During my lengthy Jersey City Police Career I was never interested in getting the standard 9:00 to 5:00 job. I never longed for that Monday thru Friday administrative desk job as many strive for. Throughout my time on the Police Department, I worked on the streets during the night, weekends and holidays. More often then not I worked as the ranking officer on duty. If I was not the first officer/supervisor to arrive at the scene of serious crimes or major incidents I was called to the scene in order to make clear and informed decisions in all kinds of incidents while gathering all of the available information. Throughout my many years as a supervisor, I was the primary and final decision maker in a myriad of incidents. Incidents such as domestic violence, child abuse, child endangerment and child custody disputes.  In addition, I oversaw and investigations of shootings, aggravated assaults, robberies and narcotics complaints. I was often tasked with coordinating New Jersey surveillance activities in order to combat and prevent these crimes.

I must stress the importance of the right vehicles to New Jersey Surveillance by a New Jersey Private Investigator. It is so important New Jersey Private Investigators have the proper surveillance vehicles to deploy into the field. In my investigation firm I have a high end SUV as well as a “working stiff” SUV.  However, the single most important investment I made for New Jersey Surveillance  was the purchase of a dedicated surveillance vehicle.  95% of Investigators don’t own a vehicle the  investigator can be secreted in while conducting New Jersey Surveillance Activities. Having the proper New Jersey Surveillance Vehicle creates the appearance of a parked and unoccupied vehicle. Below is a short video I created in which I talk about the importance of the vehicle.

The majority of New Jersey  Surveillance Activities Private Investigators conduct are not criminal matters.  Many of the cases involving a New Jersey Surveillance will end up in civil litigation, some will not.  New Jersey Surveillance Activities a New Jersey Private Investigator may become involved in are listed below, this is of course, is not an exclusive list:

New Jersey Cheating Spouse Investigations

A spouse suspects the other of cheating. The victim spouse retains Private Investigator to determine if the client is actually a victim of a cheating spouse.  In an Infidelity Investigation surveillance is the primary method an Investigator will employ during the investigation. Often, surveillance alone will confirm or dispel whether or not the suspected cheating spouse is unfaithful.  The conducting of a New Jersey Surveillance will be the largest element of the cheating spouse investigation.  The evidence a Private Investigator gathers in a Cheating Spouse Investigation will often be for the victim only. The victim will now have a clear picture of what is really going on in their relationship after having considered the evidence. The victim can then make informed decisions regarding their future with the cheating spouse.  Occasionally, evidence gathered by an Investigator can be used by an experienced New Jersey Family Court Divorce Attorney.

New Jersey Cohabitation and Alimony Investigations

During a divorce alimony may be granted by a New Jersey Court to one of the parties in the divorce.  Upon a New Jersey Court granting  alimony there is often a prohibition of cohabitation.  There is a specific legal definition for cohabitation, which will be the subject of a future article. For purposes of your understanding the changes to the revised 2014 New Jersey Cohabitation Law it was condensed very informatively into an article.  The piece was written by New Jersey Family Law Attorney Robert A. Epstein of Top New Jersey Law Firm “Fox Rotschild”.

One of the most important changes Mr. Epstein relates is that  the statute requires a New Jersey Trial Judge to consider the length of the relationship and definitively addresses a prior inconsistency in the law by declaring that cohabitation may exist even where the couple “does not live together on a full-time basis.”  this clarification should make it easier for the payor spouse to prove cohabitation. This approach also acts in a manner consistent with the amended statute’s more payor-friendly theme”.

 In another very informative  article authored by Mr. Epstein he was meticulous in breaking down what is needed to litigate a New Jersey Cohabitation Motion in a New Jersey Family Court.

New Jersey Private Investigators are often retained by aggrieved parties to conduct Investigations in New Jersey Cohabitation Matters.  The objective of cohabitation  investigations is to legally acquire admissible evidence of cohabitation for the client. This evidence will be used in a New Jersey Family Court with the objective of alimony being discontinued.  Much of the evidence will be secured through the employment of a discrete New Jersey Surveillance.

As with New Jersey Cheating Spouse Investigations, New Jersey Based Cohabitation Investigations will require New Jersey Surveillance Activities.  A New Jersey Private Investigator normally conducts the surveillance in order to obtain  evidence of cohabitation. An enormous amount of evidence is needed for the client to be successful in a New Jersey Family Court. New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations is unlike a New Jersey Cheating Spouse Investigation in which evidence of infidelity can often be obtained in a short time through surveillance. New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations conducted by a New Jersey Private Investigator are often much more arduous and time consuming.   New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations are more complicated because of the proofs and meticulous documentation required by the New Jersey Family Courts.

Child Custody Investigations Often Begin As New Jersey Surveillance Investigations

During and after Divorce Proceedings in a New Jersey  Court, Child Custody often become a major issue.  At times the focus may be on how much time the parent is actually spending with the children.  At other times the issue might be as to whom a parent may leave the child with.  One parent may have a concern as to the people who are brought around the children. The parent often wants to know the background of the individual.  One of the most common inquiries I am asked to provide is a criminal records search.  There are so many instances where the people brought around the children are drug or alcohol abusers.  There are many issues related to child custody that will be subject of  future articles focusing solely on child custody.  While studying up on New Jersey Custody Laws and the major Factors that New Jersey Family Courts render concerning custody issues, I found a really well put together and informative tutorial authored by the New Jersey Based “Wilentz  Law Firm”.  The article concerned the importance of each of the factors considered by a New Jersey Family Court, for your convenience I have linked the law firms very informative presentation

During a New Jersey Child Custody Investigation most of the intelligence a Private Investigator will need in order to conduct New Jersey Surveillance Activities will be gleaned by the Investigator through interviews. The interviews will include the client and the conducting of appropriate background inquiries on certain individuals.

Once the Investigator has acquired the proper level of intelligence it will be time to conduct New Jersey Surveillance Activities.  The New Jersey surveillance is done in order to confirm or dispel the information obtained in the initial investigation. Information as to if the subject is a drug abuser or an alcoholic.  It will be important to determine if the subject has a proclivity to drive while under the influence.  These questions can be answered by conducting a New Jersey Surveillance.  It will be important to conduct the surveillance at ALL relevant locations and of ALL the involved parties.  New Jersey Child Custody Investigations can be as time consuming and complicated as  New Jersey Cohabitation Investigations.  It is very likely New Jersey Child Custody and Cohabitation Investigations will make its way to a New Jersey Court.  Since the investigations have a high probability to land in Court it is critical reports be meticulous.

My prior thirty-five-years experience on the Jersey City Police Department being its former Chief of Police affords me a deep understanding of New Jersey Child Custody Issues.  Over the years as a Jersey City Police Supervisor I gained extensive experience in New Jersey Law relating to Title 9, child endangerment/child abuse, juvenile law as well as domestic violence and the laws and guidelines pertaining to these subjects.

Insurance Fraud “Injury” Investigations are often conducted by conducting New Jersey Surveillance Investigations

These investigations are actually hybrid in nature, while any form of insurance fraud is a crime, insurance companies do not always seek to prosecute.  While many of these investigations are surveillance heavy as are other investigations, the New Jersey Surveillance by the New Jersey Private Investigator is driven by quality intelligence.  Quality intelligence is gained through pre-surveillance investigation by the New Jersey Private Investigator .  I am going to go out on the limb here by saying  some persons feigning injuries are absolute idiots.   Scammers will often post all sorts of photos and videos on social media that contradict their claims of injury. Evidence from social media is often obtained by Private Investigators and used as evidence or as an investigatory tool as to where and when to begin a surveillance.  In any event, insurance investigations involving New Jersey Surveillance by a Private Investigator entail setting up on the target.  Once you have the proper visual proximity incriminating photos or videos contradicting the claimants representation of injury can often be obtained. You might have a target exercising in a gym or doing chores at home. Your target may be documented partaking in leisure activities which are inconsistent withclaimed injuries.  Documentation of such evidence by a New Jersey Private Investigator will certainly seal the fate of the fraudulent claimant.

As Chief of the Jersey City Police Department in order to address excessive use of a very liberal sick policy I had instituted an aggressive employee monitoring system.  This monitoring included surveillance conducted by Internal Affairs Investigators of individuals who were suspected of abuse.  Contained in the multifaceted program I implemented was a provision in where Supervisors of the Internal Affairs Unit would go out in surveillance vehicles to monitor personnel. The purpose of the surveillance was to discover, and document evidence of sick time abuse.  Once this abuse of sic time was documented and the employee properly disciplined it would deter future abuse of sick time.  This undercover strategy had resulted in multiple officers being disciplined for abuse of the sick time policy.  The result of these surveillances in conjunction with other changes to the sick policy was stunning.  Statistics showed that from October 1, 2013, to July 1, 2014, the departments sick time was reduced by 20% overall; from March 2014 to July 2014 sick time was down a whopping 43% when compared against the same period in 2012, and down 33% when compared against sick time statistics from 2013.  Although the huge drop in sick time could be attributed in part to the total revamping of the sick policy there is absolutely no doubt the sick time reductions major driving force was the surveillance program I had instituted.


 As with Insurance Fraud Investigations, employee misconduct is also hybrid in nature often crossing into the realm of criminal activity, and also like Insurance Fraud the entities being victimized often don not seek criminal prosecution. Employees often know businesses as well or even better than the leaders of the business; with that knowledge comes an insight into businesses vulnerabilities, dishonest employees will know how to improperly take advantage of an employer. Employers not only need to be concerned about theft of physical assets but often an even more valuable loss to an organization is the theft of time which has recently become more prevalent in both the public and private sector; investigations in such matters will require surveillance as a lynchpin to a successful conclusion.

Public misconduct and New Jersey Surveillance Investigations

Most public officials and employees are honest and hard working. However, there are some who look upon a government position as being a license to do things for their own interest.  They lose sight of the fact they should be working for the benefit of the public.

In March of 2016, an NBC News ITEAM Investigation reported on potential abuses by the Paterson Public Works Department where it was alleged that workers on the clock were doing private work for Paterson Mayor Joey Torres while being paid overtime by the City of Paterson. This particular case was exposed by the investigative and intensive long-term surveillance efforts of a Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator.  This corruption came at a huge cost to taxpayers in Paterson as well as New Jersey Taxpayers who subsidize much of Paterson’s budget.

Through meticulous research, record keeping and intensive long-term surveillance the Investigator’s work resulted in the matter being investigated the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office which issued indictments on several Paterson Public Works Officials as well as Paterson Mayor Joey Torres.  All Have have pled guilty to charges related to this taxpayer ripoff including Mayor Joey Torres who was required to forfeit his office while recieving a lengthy prison sentence.

More recently in 2018,  a New Jersey housing authority that receives millions of federal tax dollars is being called on to investigate allegations of a ‘no-show’ job for a politically connected security director who also runs an animal control business in six towns.  This North Bergen, New Jersey (Hudson County) official makes hundreds of thousands of dollars when his six figure job and multiple municipal contracts are taken into consideration.  This massive corruption appears to have been uncovered when the ITEAM received credible information from whistleblowers in the North Bergen Housing Authority.  Armed with this information the NBC ITEAM conducted a New Jersey Surveillance which substantiated the intelligence the news organization had received.

Private employee misconduct

One of the most severe types of employee misconduct is theft. Employee stealing money from a cash register is obviously theft, but it’s not the only kind. Other examples of theft include:

  • Doing work on a side-business while on the clock
  • Using a company vehicle for personal errands
  • Taking intellectual property like computer codes
  • Padding an expense report with extra charges

Any time an employee takes something from the company that they shouldn’t, it’s a form of theft.   Employee Misconduct can also occur outside the office after hours, employees who use or sell drugs, drink or fight in public or leak confidential information are engaging in gross misconduct, depending on their positions in the company.  This type of misconduct can especially be damaging to a company if the offender is an executive or holds a prominent position in the organization.  It will be necessary to first gather intelligence and then conduct surveillances in order to confirm or dispel suspicions of the conduct being investigated.

In a New Jersey Surveillance proper planning is key

As you can, there are many cases where a Private Investigator will conduct some level of New Jersey surveillance. A New Jersey Surveillance is not just put together on a whim planning is key. Surveillances require meticulous planning by gathering as much information and intelligence as possible. Information on the on the target and location of the investigation can often be obtained from a client.  This intelligence gathering from the client is best done prior to commencing a a New Jersey Surveillance Investigation.

Prior to Google Mapping and other advancements in technology, in order to do surveillance properly an investigator would be remiss if he or she did not go into the field in order to reconstruct the location/locations of the operation prior to initiating the surveillance.  However, it is now possible to create an accurate New Jersey Surveillance Plan remotely prior to commencing the covert operation through the use of different mapping systems.  This technology allows the private investigator to locate a suitable area to set up a surveillance location. While planning it is important to look for potential problems while scouting ahead for likely entrances and exits to the area. Most critical to any investigation that will include some level of surveillance is the deployment of a proper surveillance vehicle in which the New Jersey Private Investigator can be secreted in.

Preparation which occurs on the day prior to a New Jersey Surveillance

  A mapping system satellite search and photo screenshots of the subject property and surrounding area (work and home) associated with the investigation, i.e. Roads, nearby neighborhoods, major highways, research of the town and/or municipalities including the police department, its levels of manpower, significant policing issues and the location of police headquarters. Other important research included political management structure of the city, median income, ethnic breakdown as well as other historical data available from other sources concerning the area.  At this time you might be thinking, “why does this guy need all of this information”?  This extensive research among other things is conducted in an effort to have a cover story prepared in the event I am confronted while conducting a New Jersey Surveillance.  While armed with this extensive information I will have prepared a believable story in order to account for my presence in an area should I be challenged. By having such a “cover story” prepared I am in a position to protect the investigation by deflecting suspicion if challenged by a concerned neighbor or other person.

In this article I strived to provide an understanding of New Jersey Private Investigators and the purposes for which they might conduct a New Jersey Surveillance.  I hope this has been helpful and I invite you back to read more informative articles on New Jersey Surveillance Activities and how they relate to investigations.



About the author:  Bob Cowan is the owner of Cowan Investigations a full-service New Jersey Private Investigations Firm, Bob is the former Chief of the Jersey City Police Department and has 35 years experience as a police officer in New Jersey’s second-largest municipality.

If you wish to speak with me regarding this article, or if you need a consultation regarding it’s contents please do not hesitate to call me at 732-837-8444, seven days a week 8:00am to 8:00pm.  

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