Cheryl Thomas’ Life as an Investigator

Cheryl Thomas of Durham NC has volunteered to discuss and serve as the expert for undercover investigations.

Cheryl Thomas

Cheryl Thomas

I am a Private Investigator licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia. I have been licensed in North Carolina since 1994. I love my job and each day brings me to a new place and a new adventure. I want to share my years of experience to provide you with a better understanding of the risks and joys of my profession. Let’s begin at the start of a typical assignment.

The day before the surveillance is conducted, a pre-surveillance is conducted which can include an Internet search is performed to obtain any relevant information pertaining to the subject, which may include vehicle information, criminal history, and civil judgment(s) of the person under surveillance. The needs of the client determine the information I obtain prior to the surveillance. A full tank of gasoline is obtained as the final destination of the surveillance can cross into border states or beyond.

My typical day begins around 4:00 AM. The only persons driving at this time of the morning are  new reporters, truckers and emergency personnel making the trip lonely at times but pleasant as there is no traffic to content with. Animals often appear from the darkness of the morning.

Once at the location, the vehicles and the residence are observed and properly noted, as a vehicle is currently the most likely mode of transportation that may be used by the subject. As it is very dark in the morning making sure the correct address of the person is viable to the success of the assignment. The Internet search of the location proves beneficial prior to arriving at the location as it provides the Investigator with an idea of the area.

Once the address is determined to be accurate, a plan has to be developed to establish all possible routes of departure by vehicle and foot. Next, the choice has to be made to determine to establish direct or indirect surveillance positions. Direct surveillance means you have a direct view of the residence or indirect mean you determine to most likely route of departure thus waiting for after the person to exit the residence enroute to an unknown destination that will be determined as .the day unfolds. There are pros and cons with both types of surveillance positions.

With direct surveillance, the like hood exists that an unfamiliar vehicle may stand out and thus your undercover position may be jeopardized. With direct surveillance local law enforcement is often called to investigate the “suspicious” vehicle that has emerged with the rising of the sun.

Private Investigators are given to right to loiter. The intervention of law enforcement can poise an unwanted procedure as attention is drawn to your vehicle. Often, this encounter cannot be avoided to achieve your goal of obtaining proper video.

Some law enforcement personnel feel threaten by the presence of Private Investigators, which can lead to heated conformations, which takes time and energy away from the assignment. Private Investigators are required to produce identification solely to law enforcement personnel.

The other option is indirect surveillance position. This poses the risk of missing valuable video footage as the person may be performing certain activities around the residence, which could vital depending on the type of assignment e.g.: insurance fraud or workers compensation.

So, the Investigator has a very short period of time to size up the location of the residence in connection to the rhythm of the neighborhood in order to blend in the scenery and make a choice between indirect or direct surveillance position.  Each time the surveillance vehicle moves, the Investigator possibly looses a vantage point as someone is noticing the movement of the vehicle.  I can only hope it is not the subject of my investigation who notices the vehicle movement. The use of different vehicles and other investigative tools assist me as I camouflage into a strange neighborhood filled with many uncertainties.

The surveillance develops a face once the person is first seen. Sometimes, I have only a vague description of the person not a picture. A facial identification of the person is the first requirement needed to dispute any claim of mistaken identity should the case go to court. Since one never knows which case may end up in court, each assignment has to be handled with the same amount of integrity and objectivity and fairness. Then, the surveillance begins as the person become mobile via a vehicle or public transportation. Cash money is always need, as you may have to leave your vehicle and board whatever mode of transportation the person takes or enter into parking deck that accepts currency or cross a toll bridge.

I will leave you there for now, check back for part two as I take you with on a typically mobile surveillance. Hold on tight and get ready for the ride!

Thank you for reading.


Cheryl Thomas


5 responses to “Cheryl Thomas’ Life as an Investigator

  1. Maria Walker

    Hi Ms. Thomas,
    Reading your surveillance story above truly inspires me as a female even more to become a private investigator. I have been doing research every night for 3 weeks trying to find information on how to get into this field, I have emailed called spoke with other investigators, but I am finding some are not very nice or just dont want to take the time to explain how or even connect me with someone to sponsor me to work toward the 3000 hours that is required to get my own P.I licsene. I would love to hear what your experience has been as a female in the P.I industry, and how you got your career started. This has been a dream of mine for some time now but just been on the back burner, anything you can tell me will be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  2. have you ever had a baby died case where the baby didnt really die?

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