Undercover Agent Skills

흥신소 Undercover agents must possess many specialized skills to perform their jobs effectively. This includes the ability to discreetly communicate with other members of their cover team using visual and audio signals.


They must also be able to gain the trust of their criminal contacts and elicit valuable information from them. For example, in “buy and bust” operations, undercover agents help identify dishonest employees stealing company merchandise or sharing trade secrets.

Infiltrating Criminal Groups

An undercover agent can often help police agencies break up criminal syndicates. This is particularly true of groups involved in large-scale money laundering, drug trafficking, racketeering and extortion. A sound intelligence operation can provide the undercover agent with information that will allow her to become part of an existing organization and gain access to its operations and leadership.

A good example of this is the work done by a team of FBI agents infiltrating New York City’s five Mafia families (Jacobs and Gouldin, 1999: 163). The FBI undercover agents’ detailed and comprehensive documentation of the family’s command structure and illicit activities provided the basis for indictments against several members in a series of criminal and civil trials.

Another approach to infiltrating organized crime is to cut off the supply of illicit goods and services. In this way, criminals can no longer operate their businesses. An example of this is the RCMP’s targeting of currency-exchange houses (Beare, 1996:121). This allowed the RCMP to halt illegal cash transactions involving sums that would require reporting to FINTRAC.

The undercover officer must clearly communicate with her cover team throughout the investigation. Visual and audio signals are used, including pager codes and messages. The undercover agent must 흥신소 also know what she can and cannot say to members of the cover team, and should be briefed on this ahead of time.

Crime Scene Management

Undercover agents need to have excellent investigative skills to gather information and evidence. They use these skills in infiltrating criminal groups, investigating embezzlement and insurance fraud, government and corporate corruption, terrorism, drug trafficking and other high-priority investigations. Detectives also use a variety of tools, including fingerprint technology, to conduct searches in crime scenes and gather evidence.

Investigators need to be able to infiltrate the members of a criminal group without being recognized, and they need to have advanced knowledge of police procedures, especially in the area of crime scene management. This includes determining where the crime happened, what the potential path of contamination extended to and who handled what. These determinations enable the detective to determine the most effective way to search a crime scene and protect the integrity of forensic exhibits.

In addition to knowing the ins and outs of crime scene management, detectives need specialist skills such as self-defense, technological expertise, lock-breaking and weapons handling. Undercover investigators also need to be fluent in multiple languages, as this may be necessary for some international missions.

Because undercover investigations often involve deception and can lead to incriminating information or evidence being obtained, a number of restrictions exist for police agencies to ensure that their undercover work does not violate privacy rights or search-and-seizure laws. For example, undercover investigation techniques cannot be used to obtain incriminating information or evidence about a person for more than 24 hours without the approval of a warrant.

Adopting a False Identity

For the most important undercover investigations, a special agent may have to assume a false identity. This involves a commitment of varying degrees that can require time away from family, renting a new home or even learning a different language.

A major benefit of the undercover technique is that it can provide valuable intelligence that would be difficult to obtain by other means. Undercover agents can gather information more easily than a uniformed officer because they are able to speak openly with criminal suspects. They can also gain valuable insights into future suspect activities, something that is not easily gathered by surveillance.

While undercover operations may be conducted by field offices, approval must still be obtained from FBIHQ for any that require the use of an assumed or cover identity or involve the expenditure of substantial appropriated resources. Generally, the Director, Special Investigative Techniques will approve these Group II requests. Exceptional circumstances, such as an emergency need for a long term or complex undercover operation, may be approved telephonically by the Director, Field Operations or Chief, CI. An immediate written approval must be submitted within 5 working days following telephonic approval.

After completion of an undercover operation, the SAC should conduct a thorough review and evaluation of the operation. This should be included in the closing report to the Director, Field Operations. Generally, the area UPM, the SAC, the case agent, the security cover agent and the storefront cover agent should be invited to participate in this meeting.

Working Outside Your Ordinary Jurisdiction

Infiltrating criminal organizations and obtaining information that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain is one of the most valuable duties of undercover officers. However, this type of investigation is not as effective as it might be because the undercover officer will usually be the last person to know when his cover has been blown, making him an easy target for criminals and other law enforcement personnel (Kowalczyk and Sharps, 2017).

Police departments worldwide use undercover investigators on a regular basis to gather intelligence about organized crime groups. They can be found at the local, state and federal level.

The use of undercover agents is a risky and expensive investigative technique. They are not used as often as some people think because of the length of time it can take to gain access and the danger to the undercover agent should his identity be discovered.

Undercover operations can also be criticized for encouraging suspects to commit crimes, either as an act of “agent provocateur” or through entrapment. Some jurisdictions have laws against this, but others allow it as a means of gathering evidence during a sting operation. In addition, undercover officers can sometimes violate the privacy of investigation targets or third parties. For example, an undercover officer might cultivate a romantic relationship with a criminal suspect to generate information about the investigation.