“Live” site infiltration is an enterprise that often makes for aspiring Urbexer’s wet dreams.
Simply put, infiltration is the act of unauthorized entry into places of activity that are forbidden to the public (or outside opening hours). The main difference with regular Urbex is that target sites are still operating, buzzing with life and animation. No ruins here…Virtually any building can be an infiltration “destinations”, but the most popular are architecturally interesting commercial buildings, industrial sites, and hotels. Trying to get into hotel pools and spas is actually an old classic: I used to do it to my neighbor’s when I was a kid. Other places to visit include technical galleries, construction sites, museums, monuments, towers, hospital and, if you are really, really game for it, military compounds and bunkers…
Infiltration is rarely an end in itself though; Cataphiles will go into technical galleries or active mines, Roof-topers (which are most often confronted to active places) will go inside a building to climb on the roof…etc.
Legally, infiltration is by far the riskiest form of Urbex. Furthermore, trespassing is the least of your concern if you are caught infiltrating a prison or a military complex. In the first case you’ll potentially be charged with aiding an escape, in the second, spying.
If you think a trespassing verdict (see here) is bad for your legal record, consider what a seditious act such as “treason” will do to it… Instead of facing a fine, you will be facing the possibility of decades in prison without parole. The death penalty is some countries…
In addition, other places you should really think twice about infiltrating include banks, sensitive industires and airports. Unless you want to be charged with grand-theft, aiding in escape, or even, terrorism that is.
One last thought on potential targets. When it comes to highly sensitive sites, such as army research or chemical facilities, you do not have to physically enter the site to face serious legal charges. Drones, big tele-photo lens, and other image capturing hacks will land you in equally hot judicial waters.
Now then…if you are still reading… no discussion about infiltration would be remotely complete without addressing the modern security guard a.k.a the much feared video surveillance camera.
Let’s face it, for the most part, cameras are not subtle. In fact, the majority of cameras are not designed to catch true criminals, who can easily spot cameras and work around them, but to intimidate ordinary people into being on their best behavior. To a certain extent then, cameras exist not to monitor, but to create an impression of monitoring.
Covert cameras are, on the other hand, the other thing to worry about. Whereas non-covert cameras exist largely to intimidate and create fear, covert cameras are truly designed to gather images and information which Urbexers would prefer to keep to themselves.
Over the last 10 years, security camera systems have fallen drastically in price while increasing in popularity. Typical now are high-resolution, full-color systems, that function with cameras that fit in the palm of one’s hand.
Either way, it is quite rare for normal institutions to have more than one person watching its closed-circuit televisions at any one time. In many situations, no-one is even assigned to watch the monitors; employers view it as a waste of manpower and employees view it as a tremendously mind-numbing chore. This means that if you were indeed spotted by a camera, it is very possible you were still NOT spotted by a real person, susceptible of raising an alarm.
But when these cameras are coupled with a movement detector, it all becomes much more complicated, which brings us to our next subject…guards.
Obviously, the higher profile a site is, the more likely you are to run into an armed or unarmed guard (who sometimes has a non-lethal option).
The good news, for regular Urbexers, is that, in the grand scheme of the economic and business world, abandoned and decrepit buildings aren’t high profile. If they were high profile, the police would typically be involved. Armed guards are meant to be a line-of defense for places like banks or chemical facilities that have tangible something to steal (or attack).
Yet, the duties and responsibilities of a security guard are not the same as of a police officer. Security guards are in the prevention business. It is their job to act as a deterrent to crime, to watch for impending danger and to report crimes they may encounter.
The other major difference is that one enforces law while the other doesn’t. For instance, when a security guard apprehends a criminal, he has no right whatsoever to arrest him/her. His duty is to inform the closest police station of the incidence, because only they can make the arrest.
Security guards often have very limited power. They can;
- Patrol and search for trespassers. In other words, observe.
- Call the “real” police. In other words, report.
- NOT detain you, search you or otherwise physically restrain you, unless you give permission of course. But why would you
If you unfortunatly get caught, try this: be as unantagonizing as possible; make a move to shake hands when you first come in contact. It goes without saying that the way you present yourself will play a big part in a guard’s reaction. Security personel are much more likely to call law enforcement if they spot a masked person, dressed in black, carying a weapon…So once again, do not appear hostile (see here)
By now, you surely understand that infiltration should NEVER be improvised.
It should NEVER be taken lightly as it will never be possible to eliminate all risks related to infiltration, but given the possible dire consequences if caught, you must limit them to the best of your ability.
- You must know all there is to know about the sites guardianship, its schedules, and the technology involved. What doors are alarmed, where the cameras are…? Archive and web skills are very useful for acquiring the schematics and blueprints that will help orient yourself.
- You must know the legal limits set on the guards involved. If you are planning to infiltrate a site where the guards have order to shoot on sight, maybe you should reconsider.
- You’ll need familiarity with the laws of access in whatever jurisdiction you’re undertaking your explorations. Infiltrating a military site in Luxembourg (is that even a thing ?) will likely get you in much less legal doo-doo then say, Kazakhstan…
- An important skill for any urban explorer to acquire is Camera Awareness. One should always know when one is being watched by a non-covert camera. Basically it’s a simple matter of keeping your eyes on the ceiling, as that’s where almost all cameras are installed. For practice, play “spot the camera” whenever you’re out and about. You will be amazed.
Infiltration, involving exploring used/inhabited areas, is often lumped in with regular Urbex, but honestly, it tends to attract a different crowd.
Infiltrators are foremost explorers, who tend to be more stimulated by entry prevention systems then the sites per-se. Some even cherish the challenge involved in accessing super-secure locations.
Like rock climbers, infiltrators experience what is sometimes called “feeding the rat”. See, the rat lives inside you, and it feeds on fear. The more you feed the rat, the larger it grows, the greater its appetite – and therefore the more fear you must experience in order for it to feel satiated.
Amongst the craziest shit going on in the infiltration world, consider that in the white sandstone under Minneapolis, digging teams worked in shifts to open routes into sealed caves. In Toronto an explorer has bolted a pitch and abseiled into the vast tailrace pipe under the Niagara Falls. Elsewhere, infiltrators run tracks in the brief gaps between trains, take dinghies down storm-drains, lift-surf, and occasionally of course…they die.
Regardless, a code of honor is broadly adhered to by infiltrators: no criminal damage, no suing anyone if anything bad happens. After all, we’re sort of asking for it….
Infiltration then: a way of life that may strike you as either noble or liable for a Darwin Award, depending on your attitude toward all this Urbex business.