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The professional maco and surveillance

Friday, December 18, 2015

“Macoing” is an interesting pastime for many people. It incorporates the collection and, at times, dissemination of “juicy” information. It takes place in homes, communities, workplaces and many other places where humans occupy. It has varying names in different jurisdictions. 

Do you know that macoing constitutes an established profession in the criminology, criminal justice and security fields? Without the professional maco our lives are in real danger. There is the dire need for the professional maco to be adequately trained to perform perfectly. Today, it is more of a vital tool in crime prevention and crime solving than before.

To effectively deal with crime and security issues, there is the desperate need to enhance the surveillance systems by the various authorities as they go about macoing. This includes policies, strategies, procedures, people and equipment. 

If these people don’t get it right, we will experience more of what took place in T&T in July 1990, in the USA in September 2001 and in France in November 2015 to list just a few. The world is riddled with such tragic occurrences when surveillance systems fail. There are people who are entrusted with planning and implementing surveillance systems and without their optimum performance, there can be severe loss of life and destruction of property. 

Many types of surveillance systems are available including stationary, foot, vehicular, air, satellite and electronic among others and include computers, telephones, cameras, biometrics, GPS, data mining and profiling, stakeouts, postal services, etc. 

These are not a secret; everyone knows about them. In fact, criminals often use them too in the practice of their profession as they monitor the movements of intended targets, police, and security officers. Many times, criminals know when a particular officer is on or off duty, when police patrols are in an area, when a police raid is about to take place. The criminal element can predict your behaviour based on your routines. In criminology, the routine activities theory of crime explains this. 

For many crimes to “pull-off,” excellent surveillance by the perpetrators are conducted, for example, the murder of Dana Seetahal SC, where surveillance by criminals was at work. 

Traditional and contemporary surveillance techniques exist. An important aspect of surveillance is planning and strategising what methods are most appropriate for particular situations. Then, getting the right resources to fulfil the job is paramount. But, probably, the most important element in surveillance is, how does the system use all of the information collected to prevent or solve crimes. It makes no sense having all of the information and no plan to use it effectively. Professional training exists to enable the effective use of surveillance information. 

It has been reported that information was available surrounding the July 1990 incident in T&T as well as the September 2001 matter in the USA but it did not reach the right people to take the right action. These situations can be corrected!

Surveillance involves both teamwork and individual effort. The right mix is required. Laws govern surveillance. These must be adhered to especially if one wants to use its findings in the courts later. There may be cases where surveillance personnel may have to conduct operations outside the law but there must be policies to guide these. Surveillance is described by many human rights advocates as an invasion of privacy. To what extent should it be allowed especially as it concerns our safety and security? 

“Counter-surveillance” is a relatively unknown by the average person. However, this is essential too as it involves measures taken to prevent or reduce the risk of surveillance or make it difficult to conduct surveillance. Particular authorities utilise this quite often. Several types of counter-surveillance measures include electronic (eg bug sweeping) software, and human measures. 

Surveillance is not only used for criminal investigations but also for private investigative services. For example, a person hires a private investigator to get information on a cheating spouse. Surveillance is also conducted by some employers undertaking background checks on job applicants.

Nowadays, surveillance is done on people on social media like Facebook. In many colleges and universities in North America and Europe, surveillance is done on applicants’ social media pages to determine “what kind of person” they are bringing onto their campus. Soon, this will form part of the application process in our local and regional universities and colleges. 

There is also “inverse surveillance” involving the reversal of surveillance in other individuals and groups. A very popular example is citizens photographing police. Recently, in the US, there have been many instances of this which have led to legal action being taken against offending officers.

Don’t miss the opportunity to benefit from a three-day international training on surveillance and counter-surveillance conducted by the Miami Dade College School of Justice and the Caribbean Institute for Security and Public Safety from January 13-15, 2016, right here in Trinidad. People and organisations involved in such operations should contact us for further information. Enhance and re-tool as you play that critical role of the professional maco in our beloved country and region with the latest tactics and techniques. 

The Caribbean Institute for Security and Public Safety conducts professional training for organisations and individuals in security, law enforcement, corrections, OSH/HSE areas, corporate security and many others. Contact us 223-6999, 223-6968, [email protected] or


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