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ISS are to conduct Professional Investigator training courses in the new year that exceed the minimum requirements of 39 hours training set out by the SIA.

This course not only covers the basic standards required to obtain a Private Investigators licence but also covers additional and useful skills to operate as an effective and professonal private investigator.

The six day course will cover:

Digital Photography
Open Source Intelligence
Surveillance Methods
Running an investigation business
Private Investigation
Process Serving
General Enquiries
Statement Taking
Legislation
Tracing
Report Writing
Interviewing Witnesses

For further details, see our courses page.

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11/10/13 - Written by

SIA Private Investigator Training Course

ISS are to conduct Professional Investigator training courses in the new year that exceed the minimum requirement and standards set out by the SIA.… read more

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The Government recently stated that all Private Investigators will be required to be licenced by the SIA Autumn 2014. [Amednment: now read Spring 2015]

The Level 3 Award for Professional Investigators is based on the SIA specifications for core competency training for Private Investigators.

Licencing for PI’s is still ‘work in progress’ but the government has stated that Private Investigators will have to be licenced by Autumn 2014. [Amednment: now read Spring 2015]. The SIA requirements to obtain a licence are:-

Demonstrate identity
Have a clean criminal record
Have a Level 3 Award in Professional Investigation

Any previous qualifications that are security or investigative related will not be accepted by the SIA. You will still need the Level 3 Award. However, if you feel competent or experienced, you will be permitted to just sit the assesment test. However, the training provider may be required to complete a 'Previous Learning Map', which is a document that evidences your previous experience.

It will cost £220.00 for a licence. £110 if you already have an SIA licence for another sector.

The Level 3 Award has to be accredited by EDI or Qi accrediting bodies. It is a 39 hour training course. Unless you go down the Distance Learning route.

Who Needs a Licence?

This is an excerpt from the SIA website.....

According to the Act you will need an SIA licence if you are involved in any surveillance, inquiries or investigations that are carried out for the purposes of:

obtaining information about a particular person or about the activities or whereabouts of a particular person; or
obtaining information about the circumstances in which, or means by which, property has been lost or damaged.

Anyone involved in providing contracted private investigation services will require a licence. This includes employees, employers, managers, supervisors and directors or partners of private investigation companies. It is unclear if the Home Office will also wish us to regulate 'in-house' private investigations.

Notes:
Now, the above is subject to interpretation and one of the key points is 'contracted private investigation services'. If you are not offering a contracted PI service, you would not need to be licensed (such as a CPO conducting protective surveillance or a store guard following a suspect shoplifter), for which they should be licensed anyway in their own sector.

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05/08/13 - Written by

SIA Licencing for Private Investigators

The Government recently stated that all Private Investigators will be required to be licenced by the SIA Autumn 2014.… read more

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Since 2003, Pearson has been the parent company of the awarding organisation Edexcel. From April 2013, changes are being made in respect of the award titles, in so much that the brand ‘Edexcel’ is to be slowly dropped over the next number of months.

Therefore an ‘Edexcel BTEC Award’ will become a ‘Pearson BTEC Award’ and so on. This does not mean that your previous Award, Certificate or Diploma will not be recognised, they will. It’s just a name change. So, where you used to read ‘Edexcel’, now read ‘Pearson’. Peter

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08/04/13 - Written by Peter Jenkins

BTEC Edexcel Name Change

Edexcel to change name to Pearson… read more

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The majority of DSLR cameras have the facility to alter the cameras ISO setting, this means that the chip sensor that captures the image can be tweaked to make it more sensitive to light.

As a guide, an average setting on an overcast but bright day is likely to be in the region of ISO 400. The highest settings on a mid-range camera are likely to be ISO 1600 or ISO 3200. A more advanced camera such as the Canon 50D has an additional two ISO settings (H1 & H2) which help you when taking photographs in very low light or at night. The H1 and H2 settings let you shoot at ISO 6,400 and 12,800 respectively, enabling you to really push the cameras sensitivity to light.

The drawback is a grainy image but some of this grain, or ‘noise’ as it is referred to can be reduced slightly in Photoshop.

The images below were taken from a distance of 300m, it was a ¾ moon which was high and behind me with sparse cloud. Manual focus was used by focusing on the light from the windows.

The dark picture illustrates what could actually be seen by the naked eye. The second image was taken using a shutter speed of a 15th of a second, (tripod mounted), with an aperture of f5.6. The ISO was pushed to 12,800.

Experiment and even take your shutter speeds down to 30 seconds but you need a tripod and shutter release.

When you zoom into the image, the detail is quite phenomenal considering how dark it was. Who needs night vision optics...? If you don't want to go outside, try it in your living room with all the lights out.

If you wish to learn more, enrol on one of our Surveillance Photography Courses

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13/02/13 - Written by Peter Jenkins

Photographing At Night With a DSLR

How to take pictures with your DSLR camera in darkness by pushing the ISO settings… read more

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Qualifications for Dummies Part 2

As the first company to design and accredit BTEC qualifications in surveillance with Edexcel, I think I am qualified to dispel a few myths.

Firstly what do the Qualification Terms mean?

Award = up to 50 hours
Certificate = 50-150 hours
Diploma = 150+ Hours

Level 2 – Basic
Level 3 – Boots on the ground doing it
Level 4 – Managing those on the ground

Do not confuse Police Levels 1, 2, or 3 with those mentioned, they are totally different and cannot be compared. As such, a Police Level 1 would be roughly the equivalent to a BTEC Level 3 Diploma.

The First BTEC in Surveillance

We took our first training course to Edexcel for approval as a BTEC Advanced Award. They suggested that it be set at Level 3. The course was designed to what we felt to be a minimum standard to operate in the commercial world. It was also mapped to include the National Occupational Standards for Private Investigation and the National Occupational Standards for CPO work in respect of surveillance. It took nearly 20 months for Edexcel to rubber stamp it! There was a lot of toing and froing in order to get it right (they had had their fingers burned with the CPO training). Anyway, it was approved and we set the standard. The course title was ‘Mobile & Foot Surveillance Skills, Level 3 Advanced Award’.

Now then, as a consequence, a few other training providers also decided to design a Level 3 course in surveillance (mainly those that do CP). I doubt very much that it had taken them 20 months for their course to be turned around and accredited (as we took the brunt and set the standard), more like weeks. Any other TP’s course has to be designed by them, be accredited and have a different title to any other. Therefore anyone using our title of ‘Mobile & Foot Surveillance Skills’ for example, would be out of order (copyright). They have to name it something else.

No Two Surveillance Qualifications are the Same

Therefore, no two surveillance qualifications are worth the same if they are from different training providers. You would expect them to be, but this is far from the truth. ‘Mickey Mouse Surveillance Training Ltd can push out a Level 3 or 4 but it could be all classroom based, no vehicle work or no practical work and total rubbish – but the piece of paper looks nice.

Level 4 Certificates and Awards

I get quite a few people coming to see me in respect of work, one recently had completed someone else’s course and obtained a Level 4 in Surveillance. I asked this guy a few simple questions to which he should have known the answers. He could not answer one of them correctly with any confidence and I was absolutely astounded. He had achieved a Level 4 Award in just 5 days.

I actually felt sorry for him as I thought he had totally wasted his money. I asked him to come back when he had obtained some experience and knew all of the answers to the questions in the back of my book!

Pass or Fail?

Some training providers pass all of their students, we don’t, its a pass or fail. You could argue that if the training team are all doing their job correctly then everyone should pass but this is not so. Not everyone has a natural aptitude for this type of work and cannot reach the required standard in the timeframe. Remember, each company sets its own standards, they set their own bench mark and the amount of practical work you carry out.

Hope this helps....

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31/01/13 - Written by Peter Jenkins

Surveillance Qualifications For Dummies Part 2

As the first company to design and accredit BTEC qualifications in surveillance with Edexcel, I think I am qualified to dispel a few myths.… read more

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We are often asked why we do not run more basic foot and mobile surveillance training courses in the London area.

At the moment we run our 3 day foot surveillance course but this does not include any mobile element to it. At first view, you would think that this would be a good idea as London is a large catchment area for potential students, especially for those that do not wish to travel to Skipton in Yorkshire or bear the burden of the extra expense of accommodation.

However, on occasions we have conducted training in London but have found that ideally, it has to take place just inside or outside the M25 circular. Anymore central would not be beneficial to basic training: the instruction would be impeded by volumes of traffic and we would not get very far in terms of distance and learning value! We understand that it is 'real life' and surveillance will be conducted in the City but it is not ideal for basic training, especially for the novice.

The last mobile surveillance course that we ran in the London area was conducted in the Romford area, which gave us good access to various types of urban districts. However, those students that lived on the west side of the city initially decided to commute daily. However, on day two and after being fed up of the two hour drive at each end of the day and the risk of turning up late, the students decided to get a hotel nearby (not cheap either).

Therefore, wherever we decide to hold a course in the London area, someone has to travel and pay for accommodation, so why not just travel to Skipton? Get the traveling over and done with at the start and enjoy the rest of the course. There are two trains a day direct from London Kings Cross or every half hour if you go via Leeds or York and it takes about 3 hours, so come up and see us.

After all, Skipton's a really nice place to work with Bradford, Leeds and Halifax within 40 minutes.

Remember, you need to be able to walk before you can run..

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27/01/13 - Written by Peter Jenkins

Why Not Train More in London?

We are often asked why ISS do not run more basic surveillance training courses in the London area.… read more

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This small video camera unit that records onto an SD card for up to 5 days, was initially designed for insurance purposes. The idea is to continually let the camera run from your dashboard (or windscreen) in the event that you had an accident and thus have evidence of it.

It also incorporates a GPS which continually records the co-ordinates as you drive. Personally, I think the original idea/application seems a bit naff (who’s going to always record and it could be double edged!) but it does have its use in surveillance planing or operationally when there is a need to record from the vehicle.

On the Rural CTR phases of surveillance training, students have to recce a route in order to identify where a CTR team can be dropped off and picked up to carry out their task. After which they have to give a briefing to the team. This camera is ideal for filming the route during the recce, as you may only get one chance at a drive past. When played back, you can identify all the geographical features and route taken.

The video clip can be viewed by projecting it onto a large screen for a briefing and what is also good about it, is that the playback is automatically split into two screens. On the left is the video footage and on the right is a Google Earth map, which plots the vehicle as it moves. I presume, the camera would also prove useful to CPO’s conducting route recces.

A good piece of kit available from Dogcam Sport for £199.00

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27/01/13 - Written by Peter Jenkins

RoadHawk Camera Road Test

For those surveillance operators or Close Protection Officers carrying out recces, especially for mobile routes then this new camera may prove useful.… read more

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Firstly, your digital camera will have to be specially modified by having had the internal IR filter removed. I had this done by Advanced Camera Services and it wasn't cheap - £450.00. Once the camera has been modified in this way, you cannot really use it again in its 'normal' mode.

I would only do this if you are after photographing very fine detail, otherwise the 'Nightshot' system on a video camera should suffice. The IR source can be from various illuminators such as an array of LED’s or by means of a conventional flashgun fitted with an IR filter. The modified flashgun is the preferred option as the illumination is more powerful which assists in capturing detail and better images at longer distances.

The Flashgun

The flashgun is screened with a piece of IR filter glass which is dark red in colour. The filter has to be fitted so that any stray white light does not escape from the flash in order to remain covert.

The Camera Settings

Firstly you should go through the cameras’ menu and the following adjustments:

Review: Switch off. This prevents the rear screen from automatically illuminating as it displays the image just taken

LCD Brightness: On low This keeps the rear viewing screen brightness down in the event you have to review the images

ISO: Set the cameras’ ISO to 400

Red Eye Reduction: Switch off. This prevents a beam of light firing out of some cameras

Manual Focus: This prevents the camera shooting out a beam of red light. In very poor light or total darkness, the camera lens is unable to focus unless it has something to focus on and so it emits this red beam. The disadvantage of manual focus, it that it can be tricky to focus on your subject in total darkness. If you are close up, set your cameras focus and use a tape measure or piece of string cut to length so that you know how close or far back to move the camera for the image to be in focus.

Auto Focus: As mentioned, when the camera’s lens is set to auto focus, a red beam of light is emitted from the camera. If the situation is secure and permits you to get away with it (such as being close up or indoors) then use it.

Program Mode

The cameras program mode should be set to Manual (M). You will now have to manually adjust the shutter speed and aperture to the desired settings. A bit of experimentation is now required by bracketing the shutter speed.

It is recommended that you always try to use the largest aperture possible (f2,8, f3.5 or f4.5) in order to let in as much light. However, if shooting very close up, it is recommended to set this to f8 in order to maximise depth of field (remember that IR light focuses at a different point)

So, with your cameras aperture set to f3.5, now set the shutter speed to 1/125th, wamr up the flash and take a picture.

Review the image: If it is too dark, then slow the shutter speed down to 1/90th, if it is to bright then use a faster shutter speed of 1/350th. Boldly experiment until you get it right.

Be aware of shooting at shutter speeds of less than 1/60th as you may encounter blurring through camera shake. To obtain a faster shutter speed, increase your ISO setting to 800 or 1600.

Once you have transferred the images to a computer, it may be worth considering changing the format from 'colour' to 'greyscale'. This will give you a black & white picture rather than one with a red tinge to it.

If you want to learn more, come and visit us on our two day photography course.

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27/01/13 - Written by Peter Jenkins

Infrared Imagery Part 2

Covert imagery can be taken in complete darkness with the use of infrared light and a suitable DSLR camera.… read more

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The majority of cameras (video and stills) are fitted with an infrared filter, which is built into the body of the camera. This is used to filter out any natural infrared light from reaching the film/sensor as it will have an adverse effect on the final image.

Some video cameras have the facility to switch this filter off in order to let IR light through, it is commonly know as ‘Night Shot’. However, with digital SLR cameras it is not possible to do this and so any camera body to be used for IR, has to be specially modified by an engineer who physically removes the IR filter. Once this has been done, the camera will not be ale to be used in its normal mode unless the lens is fitted with a special filter.

Infrared Light

Infrared light cannot be seen by the naked eye. However there are various lamps, flashlights and illuminators that emit IR. They normally emit IR light in one of two frequencies: 850 nanometres or 950 nanometres (nm). An illuminator of 850nm will transmit a feint red glow which is not fully covert but any illuminator transmitting on 950nm will be totally invisible to the naked eye.

IR light also focuses at a different point to natural white light. Be aware that if you are focusing on an object 50cm away, the actual IR point of focus will be approx 5cm behind the object, so this has to be considered when photographing detail.

Video Camcorders

A camcorder with a ‘Nightshot’ facility is very simple to use. Set the camera up, switch on the ‘NightShot’ facility, attach an IR illuminator, set the zoom to your requirements and away you go. You will be able to video in complete darkness. The range of the IR illuminator will have to be tested at various distances and with differing zoom control.

Vehicle registration plates will brightly reflect IR light and therefore can be recorded at further distances when the vehicle itself may not be illuminated.

In Part 2, we look at IR Digital SLR cameras.

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27/01/13 - Written by Peter Jenkins

Infrared Imagery Part 1

Covert imagery can be taken in complete darkness with the use of infrared light and a suitable camera. This can be conducted by using video camcorders or digital SLR cameras.… read more

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Surveillance Tradecraft has been a great success since its publication in April 2010 with nearly 2000 copies sold in the first 10 months of publication in 26 different countries.

Over 4000 have now been sold and we have gone into a third re-print.

Surveillance Tradecraft continues to be the leading authority on surveilance training within the Enforcement, Security, Intelligence and Investigative sectors.

ISBN:978 0953537822

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24/01/13 - Written by Peter Jenkins

Surveillance Tradecraft Reprint

Surveillance Tradecraft Manual in its third reprint.… read more