Casing a site

I had this post set to appear in a few weeks as a response to the different readers sending their questions after a few posts about recon and site casing, but after the fun post by Jason at GORUCK about this subject, I thought I'd post it now.

Like I mentioned before, recon is crucial to a successful operation, be it physical or digital. A key part of this is the site casing: observing a location and learning its vulnerable points, its atmospherics, its rhythm. Knowing the locations of entrances and exits, potential choke points, security cameras and other devices can influence what you do or don't do. It also help planning the escape routes. Yes: Rule 1 - Always have an escape plan.

When casing a site you are gathering full intelligence on everything and keeping an eye out for anything that looks suspicious. Casings must include multiple sketches with relevant notes. Emphasis should be placed on patterns of life (atmospherics or situational reports) present to include, when possible, expectations of a 6, 12 and 24 hour cycle, operating norms, threats, danger zones, and infil and exfil points.

Casings should be thorough and, if necessary, reported in one email. Depending of the purpose of the site casing, they should not take long to do.
Here you have some basic tips and guidelines for completing a casing:

  1. ALWAYS HAVE A COVER STORY: Don't get caught! (Rule 5)
  2. Prepare a sketch of the site being cased. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it does have to include the important points: entrances, cameras, windows, where to sit and have a good view, exits, places to hide inside the site and outside, places where a tail can be lost, places where if you're tailing someone can pose potential risks, etc.
  3. Take pictures of those points and add them next to the sketch.
  4. Provide a description of the everyday activities: do people walk with cellphones on their ears, do they talk to each other, do they stand, do they cross the street when the light is right or at any time, do they park their cars in order or randomly, do they eat at the bar or they take food to go, etc...
  5. Provide a list possible places where hasty disguises can be achieved: cafes, bars, gas stations, etc. Take pictures and note the addresses.
  6. Provide a list of possible choke points: a choke point is a place on the AO (area of operations) that will make us, the people casing or tailing, very evident. If we are following someone this will be a crossroad when the target can easily spot us. Note those when casing the site.
  7. Avoid static lookouts.
  8. If a team is casing the site, divide and case the site in a circle, that way each team member can see the other's weak points and if someone is pulling counter-surveillance.
  9. If close to a possible hostile, ACT NATURALLY and if needed ask the target for directions or whatever. Be aware that after this you are burned with this target. DO NOT ACT LIKE A ROBOT, i.e. immediately reach for the phone or switch direction...
  10. 2, 3, 4 or more people on a location not really doing anything is bad. If a full team is casing the site, spread. Keep comms with TOC and with each other.
  11. If you think you were made, report and go away from the site.
  12. Keep an eye on faces: Once is an accident; twice is a coincidence; three times is an enemy action. Report (if possible take pics) people you think you saw before.

Start practicing by casing in and around the area you live, the coffee place you usually go, etc. Try to do it as covertly as you can. What you need is a simple notepad (rite in the rain or Field Notes are great), a pen and a phone with a camera. Draw the sketch as detailed as possible IN ONE SINGLE PAGE, take pictures of the relevant sites then create an email to yourself and add a picture of the sketch, any relevant pics you took and a detailed description of the atmospherics.

Here's a sketch done by Jon at a certain location during Trek. It's a great example of a good sketch.

The "Chest"

Casing should be simple, fluid and provide maximum amount of information. Don't overthink it. Keep it simple.

While you are here, check the Operational Guidelines for some extra info.

I'll leave you with a picture that those in the know will smile at.