Listen: Mystery of the Crying ChildMy son came home from elementary school one day singing a song he had learned: “Stop, look and listen before you cross the street. First, use your eyes and ears and then use your feet.” I know it sounds like an oversimplification, but the same applies to surveillance. Once you get into a stationary surveillance position – stop. Look and listen. That’s what I do. And that’s how I solved the mystery of the crying child
I was conducting a workers comp surveillance in Idaho Falls, Idaho on a sunny but cool Fall afternoon. I could hear a gentle wind hurriedly whisk the dried fallen leaves down the street. A bright yellow school bus stopped nearby belching out that familiar diesel exhaust smell that always reminds me of my time in the Army. Several children in brightly colored coats and backpacks boarded the bus in single file. I heard the loud hiss of air pressure as the driver closed the door, released the brakes and departed the neighborhood. Somewhere in the distance I heard a child cry I was set up about three houses down from the subject’s residence and had an excellent view of his front door and garage. I moved to the back seat of my van and adjusted my video camera’s zoom setting ensuring that I would be prepared when the subject appeared. Again I heard what sounded like a small child crying somewhere down the street but I didn’t give it much thought. I’m a father of three and it wasn’t my child so somehow I was able to tune it out. Besides, I was waiting for my subject to exit his residence. But the crying continued. It eventually dawned on me that the child was in distress. The crying seemed to emanate from the front of my vehicle on the left side. I moved toward the front seat of my van and looked out my driver’s side window …and that’s when I saw Spider Man. When you set up in a stationary surveillance position it is not enough to simply crack open a paperback book and occasionally glance up at the subject’s residence waiting for activity. That is not a recipe for success. In fact, that’s a recipe for disaster. Like the song my son learned in school…stop, look and listen. Look for nosy neighbors that may blow your cover. Look for people sitting on their porch wondering why you parked but failed to exit your vehicle. Look for bags of Quikrete or fertilizer or other indications that your subject may be involved in a home improvement project. Listen for car doors being closed or screen doors slamming. It may be your subject leaving. Listen for lawn mowers or snow blowers being started. It gives you a great opportunity to start your car and get some air conditioning or heat in your vehicle while masking the sound of your engine running. Listen for people talking or yelling. It may be your subject. It might surprise you how far sound travels, especially during the winter. So let’s get back to Spider Man. Obviously I did not see Peter Parker out my driver’s side window. But I did see SpiderMan. And that’s only because he was on the pajamas of a barefoot 7 year old boy who was standing in his front yard crying. I looked around but I didn’t see any adults or any vehicles in the driveway. The boy periodically walked towards the front door out of my view and then back to the front yard. I suspected that he had been left home alone, probably while he was asleep. When he awoke to find the house empty he must’ve walked outside and locked himself out of the house. I called 911 and reported it. I then kept an eye on him until the police arrived. And in a rather serendipitous move, both his mother and the police officer arrived at the residence at the same time. The boy was safe. But his mother got an earful from the police officer about leaving such a small child home alone. Stop. Look. Listen Until next time this is Scott Fulmer, the Utah Gumshoe, reminding you the game…is afoot!
The crying seemed to emanate from the front of my vehicle on the left side. I moved toward the front seat of my van and looked out my driver’s side window, and that’s when I saw Spider Man.