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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

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Over the recent past there have been various posts on a number of investigative related forums where there have been discussions about trespass, deploying trackers, using telephoto lenses, lifting bins, putting cameras on a house etc etc.. and every time someone pipes up ‘..but isn’t that illegal under RIPA..?’

In simple terms: NO IT DOESN’T!

Now then, to put it into simple terms, you can do what you like in the commercial world (carry out surveillance, follow people, follow cars, take photographs…) and RIPA has got absolutely nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing, zero, zilch..

RIPA ONLY concerns YOU if you are employed by (or acting on behalf of) one of these public bodies listed (please read carefully now):-

Charity Commission
Criminal Cases Review Commission
Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
A county council or district council in England & Wales
Department for Transport, for the purposes of:
Marine Accident Investigation Branch
Rail Accident Investigation Branch
Air Accidents Investigation Branch
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
A district council within the meaning of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for Northern Ireland
Department of Health
Department of Trade and Industry
Environment Agency
Financial Services Authority
A fire and rescue authority
Fire Authority for Northern Ireland
Food Standards Agency
Gambling Commission
Gangmasters Licensing Authority
Government Communications Headquarters
Health and Safety Executive
HM Revenue and Customs
Home Office (for the purposes of the UK Border Agency)
Independent Police Complaints Commission
Information Commissioner
A Joint Board where it is a fire authority
Ofcom
Office of Fair Trading
The Pensions Regulator
Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
Port of Dover Police
Port of Liverpool Police
Post Office Investigation Branch
Postal Services Commission
NHS ambulance service Trust
NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service
Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Services Trust
Northern Ireland Health and Social Services Central Services Agency
Royal Navy Regulating Branch
Royal Military Police
Royal Air Force Police
Scottish Ambulance Service Board
A Scottish council where it is a fire authority
Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Secret Intelligence Service
Security Service
Serious Fraud Office
The special police forces (including the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency)
The territorial police forces
Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust

Please Note: CPO, Surveillance Dude, Private Eye, Dog Handler is NOT on the list. If you are not acting on behalf on any of the above, never mention RIPA again for the duration of your natural life.

pantsIf you are one of those people who, on their investigation / security websites state: ‘Our company complies with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1998…blah blah, I challenge you, will call you a big liar and stand back from the heat as your pants catch fire.

It’s so simple people, if you are not on the above list, forget RIPA as if you have never heard of it. Simples..

Afternote: This article concerns RIPA and the private contractor. It is advised that any private surveillance is considered for necessity, proportionality and the possibilty of collateral intrusion.

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24/01/13 - Written by Peter Jenkins

RIPA For Dummies

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is very complex, Here is a Dummies guide that takes out all the nonsense, especially where private surveillance operators are concerned.… read more

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This is a bit long, so bear with me...... it will be worth it.

I have heard/seen discussions recently in respect of one training provider not recognising another’s qualifications in respect of surveillance, so here's my slant...

In respect of the CP Level 3 Certificate, the course was designed by various stakeholders in conjunction with the SIA who ‘rubber stamped’ it and had it accredited by Edexcel as a minimum 150 hour course. The course structure, lessons, topics and learning outcomes should be the same ‘minimum’ regardless of which training provider runs the course.

In respect of Surveillance Awards/Certificates/Diplomas, this is not the case. No governing body, the SIA (or anyone else) has had a say in what goes into surveillance training courses and qualifications.

Any training provider that offers these ‘qualifications’ in surveillance is offering their ‘OWN’ product in what is classed as a ‘Customised’ qualification (just like making widgets).

For example: Our (ISS) Btec Level 3 Award in Foot & Mobile Surveillance is classed by Edexcel as a ‘Customised Award’. It is a qualification that we (ISS) has designed and set a standard for our company. In some respects, it is OUR OWN course to which the level of training, the subjects taught and assessment has been decided by us and thus reflect in our specific high standards.

With me so far.....?

Now then... another surveillance training provider may also offer a Btec Level 3 Award (but their course will be called something slightly different to ours, as the title is copyrighted). Their course will also be a ‘Customised Award’ and it would have been designed by them to cover what THEY feel is right and to their own standards. In this instance, no two courses from different training providers give the same qualification or level of skills!

Let’s look at it like this: On a 2 week course, we (ISS) may carry out 60 hours of mobile exercises in the cars, where another TP only carries out 25 hours in their 2 weeks. Or they may spend 10 hours in rural OP’s practising camouflage whilst we don’t but teach Counter Surveillance or use public transport in the exercises... So each training provider sets its own course title, structure, content and level of qualification. As it is ‘Customised’, technically it is their own in-house training package.

In real practical terms if you have a Btec Level 3 in surveillance from ‘ISS’, another surveillance company might say that they do not recognise our training (and why should they, it’s our course?). On the flip side, why should we recognise any other TP’s qualifications? Especially when their standards and skill levels do not match ours (I can say this from experience).

Why am I mentioning all this? If you are choosing a training provider, the certificate that you have left your course with (if you passed) is only worth something to the outside world, if the company that you did your training with is respected and has credibility. It means that you can do what is says on the certificate....

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12/01/13 - Written by Peter Jenkins

Surveillance Qualifications For Dummies

I have heard and seen discussions recently in respect of one training provider not recognising another’s qualifications in respect of surveillance, so here's my slant...… read more