HUMOROUS HOW-TO’S: “The Art of The Tail”

Don’t you hate getting caught  while you’re trying to “tail” someone? Follow Michael’s fool-proof plan and no one will be the wiser.


Ever try to tail someone and get caught following? Ever wonder if the query knows if [he or she] is being followed? Well, it is time to stop and time to read, then act. To tail someone is to follow an asset without ever being noticed. If noticed, then the tail was done incorrectly and, unfortunately, there are rarely any second chances, not unless the asset has a sudden bout of amnesia, goes senile all of a sudden, or just plain forgets [he or she] is being tailed. There are three basic rules to tailing. Number one, don’t be seen. Number two, keep the distance consistent. Number three, most importantly, do not lose the target, asset, query, or whatever you want to call what or who it is being tailed.

Now, starting with rule number one, not being seen. This is something that takes practice and is the easiest to screw up. First off, don’t be seen. This means using common sense when picking a car to use when tailing an asset. Typically, you want something that does not stand out. A bright pink with black-polka-dotted Cadillac is not ideal for this task, as it will stand out like a big, bright-red dot in the middle of a big, white field. Something more inconspicuous is needed for this task. Something like a black Chevy Suburban. Yeah, I know, screams G-Man, right? However, it does work. Anything black…white or gray will be more incognito than a brightly-decorated sports car. Another way not to be seen is to tail at night. When tailing at night, try to follow this one important rule: do not use headlights. If your asset sees the same pair of headlights behind him or her over any given period of time, the asset will know he or she is being followed. The only exception to that rule is when you are on a busy street. That way your headlights blend with other headlights moving about on the road. Though one last thing about the headlights exception is to not change lanes too often or it will have the same effect alerting your asset to the tail. The last way to not be seen is to use other cars in traffic as cover. When doing this, all that needs to be done is to drive naturally and not be aggressive. Just act natural and move with the ebb and flow of traffic.

Secondly, when tailing an asset it is ideal to stay thirty yards behind him or her. This can be stretched out to a maximum of sixty yards. Any further and the risk of interference from traffic, weather, or annoying people that jay-walk (which makes you just want to run them over, but you can’t because it is against the law, and if you get caught, you go to prison where you meet a guy named Bubba who makes you pray you never drop the soap; okay, that is a bit much, but you get the picture. Jay-walkers are just so freaking annoying) that get in the way. Always keep the distance consistent. Fluctuations in distance can cause you to be seen, which breaks rule number one. Most notably is when you get too far from the asset and now have to speed up to get within visual distance. People sometimes may be absent-minded and not really pay attention to what is behind them, but when someone sees a car, truck, or motorcycle speeding up behind them, doesn’t matter who they are, the people being followed get defensive. They will try to change lanes to get out of the way, speed up, slow down, or move onto the shoulder in order to let you pass them. If you don’t pass them they get suspicious and then you have been seen, which breaks rule number-one, again. When this occurs, it is done; you have been spotted and now have only two recourses: pass the asset or get out of sight. The best thing to do is just get out of sight. That way, you can reset, find, and try to tail your asset again, once he or she is no longer being defensive on the road.

The last but most important rule about tailing: never lose your asset. This is the easiest but can be the hardest to follow all at the same time. This is where rules one and two play a big part. Remember rule one, don’t be seen or your asset might slip away. Rule number two, keep your distance steady and consistent or your asset will notice something is wrong and rabbit. Rule three is basically keeping your asset in sight. Always know what the make and model is of the car  or what the person looks like that you are tailing. It is essential to make some effort to memorize what you see so you don’t lose them to bad weather, heavy traffic, or construction detours. Also, if you happen to fail rules one and two, rule three comes into play and becomes your only concern. If you lose your asset, you may never be able to get back to him, her, or it.

Tailing is an art form. One that should be honed and practiced. It comes in handy in many types of law enforcement jobs, including private investigation. Now that you know the three important rules of tailing (children should NEVER try this, and neither should teenagers) you should be able to follow and tail your own target of interest should the need arise. Hopefully, it will never, because it can be construed as stalking in the eyes of the law.


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