Undercover Surveillance Training Gets Real

undercover surveillance

It’s not often you can put the training you receive to use that same day, yet this is exactly what happened August 20 during an Undercover Surveillance Operations class held at the Allstate Center conducted by the Center for Public Safety Innovation (CPSI), part of St. Petersburg College‘s College of Public Safety.

This federally-funded course provides students with an understanding of the principles of basic surveillance techniques, including the different types performed by narcotics officers, and engages students in actual surveillance via practical exercises and scenarios.

During one of the live practical exercises, the lead instructor observed a suspicious person standing on the side of the road looking around as if to see if anyone was watching him. 

“As soon as I saw him, my cop sense kicked in and I knew he was up to something,” explained the instructor.

The students stopped their exercise and began to practice what they had been learning in the classroom by surveilling this person. The subject then darted down the alley, while still looking to see if he was being watched. The lead instructor explained that these actions matched the typical “crime of opportunity” behavior he has seen repeatedly during his career. The individual walked several blocks through the alley, met up with a second person, and both got into a car and left the area.

As students were also members of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, they called in the information and followed the car for five miles until it stopped at a residence, and they watched as the occupants went inside. When on-duty deputies arrived, the two suspects were identified, and one had an active warrant for his arrest on drug charges. Local law enforcement now has two excellent leads on thefts taking place where they had originally spotted the first suspect.

History repeated itself on Thursday, August 22, when students were surveilling a role player who entered a local Publix. As soon as they entered, the students came upon a heated verbal argument between two individuals. They observed one individual reach behind his back and yell, “I’ve got a gun and I’m going to shoot you!”

The surveillance team quickly identified themselves as law enforcement and were able to detain the subject as he attempted to flee. Thankfully, no weapon was involved, however that person was taken into custody by the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Now that’s a week of training that the students will never forget!

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