How Undercover Agents Operate

Undercover agents are police officers that assume covert roles in organized crime. They face real danger, and their reintegration into regular law enforcement duties can be difficult.


Joe Pistone and Ralph Garcia, for example, worked undercover in the Gambino family to deliver evidence that led to convictions. Other examples of undercover work include infiltrating criminal groups and investigating fraud.

Infiltrating Criminal Groups

Undercover agents are often as 서울흥신소 signed to infiltrate criminal groups, gaining information about their operations to help prosecute them. This requires them to get close to the group leader and learn as much as possible about how the organization operates. For example, an undercover agent may pose as a drug dealer or gang member to find out how the operation is run and who the top players are.

Undercover officers use surveillance skills to perform these missions without detection. They must have excellent observation abilities and be detail-oriented. They must also be able to focus on their target for as long as necessary to gather evidence. They must be adept at disguise as well, as they may need to wear different clothes or assume a new identity for the duration of the mission.

There is an ongoing debate about the use of undercover policing, particularly sting and buy-bust operations. Some critics are concerned that such methods compel people to commit crimes who would not have otherwise committed them. They call this the entrapment argument (Ross 2008: 22).

In order to avoid inadvertent entrapment, law enforcement agencies need to carefully plan and mon 서울흥신소 itor their undercover activities. They must follow internal guidelines that outline the number, course and results of undercover operations. These include having a senior police officer or a designated supervisor oversee the undercover activity and reviewing all data related to it on a regular basis.

Crime Scene Management

Once a crime scene is established, it’s vital for investigators to secure the area and lock down the scene. Victims, witnesses, first responders and arrestees have already contaminated the crime scene with their activities, which can damage the forensic integrity of exhibits. A physical barrier, such as police tape or cones, must be placed around the scene to prevent everyone from entering. This also allows for a clear picture of existing contamination in the crime scene to be documented.

Once the scene is locked down, it is essential that investigators document the crime scene by photographing all the exhibits and their locations. This step is critical to establishing the chain of evidence, which will allow for determining where exhibits originated and their relationship to the overall criminal event. This step is known as identifying the path of contamination.

Undercover officers and CIs need funds to make their planned buys, and it’s important for agencies to track this money. Agencies can get in trouble if the money goes missing, which is not uncommon when agents and CIs are mixing with a criminal element.

Sworn members who are working undercover should be briefed on the operational plan before they start their covert operation. Contingency plans for rescuing the undercover member should be in place and discussed during this pre-operational briefing. Visual and audio signals should be worked out ahead of time so that the undercover officer and cover team can communicate on several levels.

Detecting Fraud

A common use of undercover agents is in the detection of fraud, such as counterfeit money or forged credit cards. In these cases, undercover investigators are hired by companies to infiltrate employee informal groups and gather information about embezzlement or other financial crimes.

Another use of undercover officers involves infiltrating criminal or dissident political milieus for intelligence collection purposes. For example, a Canadian police force posed as drug traffickers to monitor currency-exchange houses. The operation resulted in the seizure of more than $3 million in cash. The investigation of proceeds of crime and money laundering requires more sophisticated undercover work such as store-front operations to gather information about the criminal organization’s personnel, methods and finances.

Investigators also use undercover techniques to identify dishonest or malicious employees sabotaging a company’s business. The undercover agent is secretly recruited to join a company’s staff, acting as a regular employee, to gain the trust of others to gather information about theft, production problems or other internal issues.

During the planning phase, the undercover officer must carefully consider his or her safety and how to minimize exposure. A sergeant or higher should oversee all undercover operations and ensure adequate cover is present. The operational plan should include communication protocols including visual and audio signals for the undercover member and contingency plans for rescuing the member during an undercover mission.

Obtaining Evidence

When an investigation into a company’s losses requires more than just the interview of witnesses, an investigator can be placed undercover to gather evidence. This is usually referred to as an “undercover investigation,” which differs from the more common overt investigations of the type where an investigator in a suit arrives at a loss scene. In an undercover investigation, the investigator is hidden in a regular position within the company (such as a truck driver or security guard) to gather information by associating with employees who do not know that the agent is a law enforcement officer.

A request to conduct an undercover investigation should include a narrative section that explains the sensitive circumstances reasonably expected to be encountered, as well as a statement of the objectives that the field office expects to achieve through the operation. It should also state why the undercover investigative technique is appropriate and the legality of the proposed action. A letter from the appropriate United States Attorney must be included in the application that favors the approval of the undercover operation.

Some undercover investigations require the use of illegal investigative techniques, such as breaking and entering or trespassing to search for information. Agency policy should set limits on this activity and identify what managers can do to minimize the use of these techniques.