Gizmos give private eyes sharper sight, clearer sound

Tailing someone at the behest of a client was a hard task for private detective Sanjay Sonawani 20 years back. He would often walk several kilometres to follow the person only to be disappointed when his quarry entered a house or private compound out of bounds for Sonawani. The information blackout would last until he emerged again.

"Once a person entered a place, say a flat or a bungalow, we were clueless," recalls 48-year-old Sonawani, who has been running Rovers Detecting Agency for the past 24 years.

Hi-tech gizmos have changed all that. The methodology has metamorphosed in the past few years. Now Sonawani and his staff of over 55 across Maharashtra use GPS, high-end spy cameras, advanced cellphones/GPRS and more to make their work easier and more efficient.

"The changing face of technology has had a big impact on private investigation. The latest equipment reduce stress on investigators and saves time. New technology is used by detective agencies to gather usable information and intelligence. The better the product the larger the info," said Gautam Giri, general manager (West), Sharp Detective Agency, a 42-year-old agency.

At Sharp, the research put into procuring these devices from around the world is phenomenal and easily takes up 50 man-hours a week. On an average investment on gadgets is approximately 15 lakh per annum. Giri adds that investigators at Sharp use devices like hidden cameras, GPS trackers, audio/video devices that can be hidden in photo frames, clocks, ties, caps, belts, TV, stereo and so on, night vision devices, and bionic listening devices that allows conversation to be heard from a distance of 100 feet.

On an average, Rovers Detective Agency gets around 30 to 40 cases a month. "Not every case demands use of technical equipment. But still, on an average, we spend between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh a month on gadgets," adds Sonawani.

According to Sonawani, one device gaining popularity is the 'bug', a small camera the size of a 50 paise coin. It is magnetic and can be placed in an office, house, car, table, bed etc, "Basically, it can be placed at any place. It is not sold in India. We order it from USA and China. While the China make starts at Rs 5,000, the USA product ranges from Rs 15,000 to Rs 18,000," he says.

To avoid legal problems, Rovers detectives use the bug camera only when they feel it's a client's genuine need, he adds.

G S Yadav, proprietor of the decade-old Truth and Dare Detective Pvt Ltd says that use of technology has made their job easier. A couple of years back, the agency started using cameras that can be fixed in key chains, wrist watches, spectacles, caps, pens and belts. "It not only saves time but is also accurate. We just have to give recorded clippings and videos to clients. For instance, if we fit a GPS on someone's vehicle, sitting in our office, we can keep track of that person's movement. Even phones are so technically sound and handy that our employees can use them in cases as and when required," says Yadav.

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