Surveillance Equipment and Spy Gear for Investigations

surveillance equipment
Learn about the various surveillance equipment and hi-tech gear used by private investigators.

Surveillance equipment includes any equipment, gadget, or device that is used to conduct various types of surveillance, counter-surveillance, and investigations.

The equipment is most often used to perform surveillance. Surveillance involves observing the behavior of a particular person or persons, usually from a distance. Spy gear is also used to conduct counter-surveillance to check for electronic bugging devices. Or to prevent others from observing your behavior. or to conduct covert investigations. Additionally, spy gadgets are used by private investigators, police officers, bounty hunters, and even the military.

In many cases, detectives use spy equipment without the knowledge of the subjects being observed. This is usually done to gather information such as videos, photographs, or data on a person’s activity. In addition, the equipment is becoming an important part of both personal and home security. For example, people secure their homes with security cameras, window monitors, hidden devices, and wireless cams. 

This article provides an overview of basic and advanced spy equipment. Also, it includes links to websites that carry a wide variety of hi-tech tools to meet your investigation, tracking, and security needs.

Types of Surveillance Equipment

The following categories of spy equipment include a quality line of basic and advanced security and covert products. You do not have to be a private detective or police officer to purchase the gear. Many people purchase hidden cameras and other devices for their homes. You’ll find gadgets and electronics such as audio recorders, electronic bug detectors, digital cameras, GPS tracking devices, listening devices, night vision goggles, self-defense products, and other apparatus.

Audio Listening and Recording Devices

Audio Amplifiers
Learn about audio amplifiers and sound amplification equipment used for surveillance.

Private Investigators, law enforcement, and intelligence experts use various forms of covert audio listening, recording, and analysis equipment to capture conversations, sounds, and noises to be used as evidence in investigations. For example, when a private investigator is performing monitoring at a distance, they might use various kinds of Audio Surveillance Equipment like amplified microphones, electronic bugging devices, or even mobile phone spy software.

In other situations, an investigator might use a Digital Voice Recorder / Audio Recorder to record witness or subject statements, record notes about a case, capture ideas or reminders, and more. These devices may be used to covertly record people’s conversations without their knowledge. If you plan to use the equipment in this way, make sure you are familiar with the applicable laws in your state.

RELATED: Wiretapping: One Party & Two-Party Consent States

Other audio analysis tools such as voice analysis and modification tools, voice stress analyzers, voice changers, and transformer instruments work with telephones and cell phones. It is critical to know the laws that pertain to the use of audio recording and surveillance equipment in your specific area. Check first before buying any equipment.

Binoculars, Scopes, and Optics

Binoculars are a must-have piece of surveillance equipment for private investigators and law enforcement officials. Primarily, they help people view things at a distance, which may be necessary to perform a check on your subject, or at a stakeout. If you need to see in the dark, Night Vision Goggles, Night Vision Binoculars, and weapons sights are useful for nighttime sleuthing and security. Learn more about Binoculars and Night Vision Goggles.

Computer Hardware and Software Tools

Investigators, Police, and intelligence experts use specialized hardware and software programs to spy on computers, record internet surfing, and other computer activity, log keystrokes, capture chat conversations, and email exchanges. For example, a PI might use keylogging software to catch a cheating spouse who is chatting online with her partner.

In addition to monitoring computer, laptop, and tablet activity, private eyes might use special covert programs to conduct cell phone recon on wireless phones and mobile phones, get data from cell phones, text messages, instant messages, and more. Learn more about Mobile Phone Spy Software.

Faraday Bags

Faraday bags are specially designed bags that prevent signals from entering or leaving an electronic device. For example, private investigators may use the bags to block the tracking of their client’s mobile phones, tablets, or even credit cards.

GPS Tracking Devices

GPS Tracking Devices for Monitoring a Person's Location and Movement
Learn how GPS tracking devices are used to track location and movement.

Covert GPS Tracking Devices are used to track the movement and travel activities of just about anything, from vehicles, to people, to physical items. Secretly place GPS tracking devices to follow the location where it goes. Then, trackers monitor the movements using specialized software that uses GPS signals to track the exact location of the device.

Other tracking devices use Bluetooth technology to track the location of smaller items. Learn more about Bluetooth Tracking Devices such as the best-selling Bluetooth item tracker, Tile. As an example, a woman may place a Tile device inside of her purse. If the purse is stolen, she can track the location of the Tile device using an app on her cell phone.

Headphones, Earbuds, and Headsets

Headphones are small loudspeakers that are held close to a person’s ears with a headphone connector or with in-ear connectors. The headphones are connected to a signal source such as an audio amplifier, radio, CD player, mobile device, or personal computer.

Headphones are also known as earphones, earbuds, or headsets. In the context of personal telecommunications, the term headset describes a combination of headphones and microphones. These are used for two-way communication, for example with a telephone.

Private Investigator Use

Private investigators may use headphones during the course of a surveillance mission. Many surveillance cases involve the use of audio equipment and listening devices. Private investigators often need to listen to conversations from a distance, so electronic listening devices and headphones are often used.

In addition, private detectives often use headsets to keep their hands free when observing someone’s actions from a distance. This allows a private eye to operate other devices simultaneously. Such as a video camera, binoculars, night vision goggles, or another type of camera.

Private detectives may also use various headsets or earphones that are designed to work with spy gear. Some anti-bugging or bug detection devices work with earphones that allow the user to listen to electronic signals. This aids the user in detecting hidden electronic devices, also known as bugs, by hearing changes in frequency signals. You’ll find a wide variety of Telephone Headsets at

Hidden Safes

Hidden safes (also known as hidden diversion safes) are a unique and simple home security product that allows you to hide your valuables safely inside containers that look like everyday household products such as soda cans, hair spray, soup cans, and more. They are a great way to keep your valuables safe, even from your own family members.

Experts say that, on average, a typical burglar will spend a total of about eight minutes in your home. Most burglars or home invaders will be in a hurry and will grab the most obvious valuable items such as money, jewelry, expensive artwork, electronics, etc. That’s why hidden safes and diversion safes work so well, because they keep things truly hidden, in plain view.

Burglars and thieves who break into a house may know that a diversion safe exists, but they are usually scared, pressed for time, and just want to get in, grab what they can, and get out as quickly as possible. Hiding valuables covertly in a diversion safe makes perfect sense and dramatically increases the likelihood that your valuables will remain untouched.

Sometimes, hiding your valuables in plain sight is not only the best solution for fooling burglars and thieves but also curious children. You can use the same devices to keep things hidden from children or relatives who may have “touchy” fingers. Children can’t get things from you if they don’t know where they are being kept.

View a wide variety of hidden safes at Brickhouse Security.

Mobile Phone Tracking Software

If you’re a concerned parent who is wondering what your child is doing on their mobile phone or computer, you may consider using mobile phone spy software. They allow you to track and monitor activity on a cell phone or tablet. You can keep track of incoming and outgoing calls, text messages, social media activity, GPS location, and more. Not all programs will work with all phones, so it is important to understand what software works with iPhones, Android phones, Windows, phones, etc.

Police Equipment

Police and law enforcement officers use a wide variety of surveillance and security equipment and tools in the line of duty. They use hi-tech tools such as binoculars and night-vision goggles, infrared scanners, metal detectors, bug scanners, and more. In addition, they use personal security equipment such as tactical equipment (see above). Examples include firearms, tasers, batons, pepper spray/mace (see below), handcuffs, and more. See Police Equipment / Police Gear for more information.

Pepper Spray and Mace

Pepper spray, also known as mace, OC spray, OC gas, capsicum, or oleoresin capsicum) is a chemical agent. When sprayed, the chemical irritates the eyes and causes such painful physical symptoms as tears, pain, difficulty breathing, runny nose, coughing, and even temporary blindness.

These deterrents are used by law enforcement in many situations including riot control, crowd control, suspect apprehension, and personal self-defense. The physical effects of the spray on the individual cause temporary debilitation. This helps police officers gain control of unruly situations.

Private citizens may use the chemical mixture as a self-defense and personal protection tool. The chemical mixture is most often carried by women. The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, which is a chemical from the fruit of plants in the Capsicum genus, including chilies.

In some cases, the chemicals can be lethal, especially when the dosage is excessive, and in cases where the sprayed individual has heart problems, a respiratory illness, etc. The duration of the effects depends on the strength and amount of the chemical sprayed, but the average full effect lasts around thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting up to several hours. The long-term effects are unknown.

Pepper spray typically comes in canisters. In many cases, the canisters are small enough to conceal in a pocket or a purse. In addition, some products come with a pepper spray dispenser inside. For example, key rings, watches, or pens. Many people carry it attached to their key chain for quick availability when needed, such as when walking to their car at night. There are also pepper projectiles available, which shoot from a paintball gun.

Private investigators may use the chemical as a personal self-defense tool, or when providing personal protection services for their clients. Investigators may also consult on its use when teaching clients how to protect themselves. Either way, it is helpful to be knowledgeable about the different types and how to use them properly.

Police also use TASERs for similar purposes, but usually only in more extreme circumstances.

Personal Protection and Self Defense

Self defense
Learn about self-defense and personal security techniques

There are a number of self-defense products and weapons that are used by professionals and can also be used for your own personal and home security. Products in this category include such things as firearms (guns, rifles, etc.), batons, mace/pepper spray, knives, tasers, stun guns, and more. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the applicable laws in your jurisdiction. In the long run, it is wise for private eyes to understand the legal issues surrounding owning and carrying any weapon.

Security Systems for Home and Business

Home Security Systems
Learn about the best home security systems to keep you and your family safe

There are a number of high-quality security systems available to monitor your home or business. Read our overview of Home Security Systems, which includes DIY home video surveillance monitors and systems such as SimpliSafe, Nest Secure Alarm System, and the Nest Security Cam. Also, read a list of tips to keep your home safe.

Spy Sunglasses

Spy sunglasses that contain spy cams are great for covert surveillance. Plus, they are very easy to use. They come in very different styles and are one of the most popular types of equipment. Most people don’t realize it, but some of the best spy sunglasses are available to the public.

These special sunglasses will contain a camera, a microphone, and a battery source. The most current models will come with rechargeable batteries that last for six to nine hours. They can record in color and pick up audio from far away. Most will come with a pinhole or pin camera so you can record at all times.

Tactical Gear

Tactical gear includes anything that law enforcement, military personnel, or investigators wear on their person to provide protection or utility benefits. For example, bulletproof vests, bullet-resistant vests, and other body armor designed to protect you in the line of duty.

Surveillance Equipment and Counter-Surveillance Equipment

A wide variety of devices are available to perform surveillance, counter-surveillance, and countermeasure checks. The devices are for either your personal home security or as a security service to your clients. For example, Electronic Bug Detectors help detect and locate all major types of electronic surveillance devices. Find bugs hidden in rooms, phones, furniture, microphones, video transmitters, and tape recorders.

Video Cameras, Hidden Cams, and Drones

Recording and capturing video footage have become one of the most pervasive types of public and non-public surveillance. Anyone with a cell phone can capture video footage. The footage can even become official evidence in a court trial.

Investigation professionals use more advance and high-tech equipment to perform surveillance or capture hidden videos. Such equipment includes packaged camera systems, CCTV, and DVR monitors.

Police officers, investigation professionals, and even the military use drones to conduct aerial surveillance. Drones help law enforcement officials search for subjects,  conduct reconnaissance, and monitor disaster areas. Drones can capture both photographs and video footage.

Other types of spy security cams include hidden cameras that are covert and out of sight, wireless security cameras, stealth cams for hats, covert glasses, hidden camera buttons, and more.

Also, parents can use nanny cams to keep tabs on babysitters and nannies. Includes wireless nanny observation cams, hidden nanny cameras, and minicams. Also, learn how to find hidden cameras with an electronic bug detector.

Other Spy Gear and Equipment

  • Survival Kits and Accessories – People use survival kits and related accessories to survive in difficult and/or extreme conditions. These kits can be helpful for other purposes too, like long surveillance missions and stake-out assignments. Especially, when you need to stay outdoors for long periods of time in potentially uncomfortable or extreme conditions.
  • We’ll be adding more information on DIY spy gear solutions, undercover jackets, bug detection kits, note pads, and more in the near future.

If you’re the DIY type, be sure to check out your local supply stores, including stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot. You can find some of the best DIY equipment in your local neighborhood store. This includes products for adults and fun stuff for children and teens.

Important Notices

It is the responsibility of the Buyer to ascertain and obey all applicable local, state, and federal laws in regard to the purchase (whether it be wholesale, retail, or person-to-person sales), possession, and use of any gear items listed on this website.

Consult an attorney or law enforcement professional, regarding local, state, and federal laws before ordering any spy gear products. By placing an order, the Buyer represents that he/she is of legal age and will use the products in a legal manner. When applicable, instruments sold may be subject to Public Law 90-351, Title 111 18 U.S.C., Section 2511. These guidelines apply to both retail and wholesale spy gear.


Cheap Spy Gear – We recommend buying retail and wholesale items only from reputable vendors. Many companies offer cheap spy gear either through their own website or on marketplaces like eBay. In many cases, these companies offer a lower-quality products without any guarantees. In fact, some of the offers are outright scams, aimed at stealing your money or your identity. Do your research before making a purchase and lean toward buying through a reputable company with a positive review. In general, buying wholesale will result in a cheaper per unit price.

If you have any questions about the surveillance equipment and spy gear discussed above, please leave a comment on the product page for which you have a question.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


  1. Security cameras allow for peace of mind when every member of the household is out during the day or the security of a business place. There are a variety of CCTV and security cameras that are used for security purposes. With more advanced security systems now connecting to mobile phone applications. Recently I installed cameras in my home.


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