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Private Investigator Tactics

In the fictional world of television and novels, clients (usually beautiful blondes) seek out a private investigator (trench coat and fedora included) to help them find something that doesn’t fall within the bounds of the police’s jurisdiction. They may have already tried working with the police or may be afraid of them, but they turn to private investigators because of the specialized skills they have.

My typical client is not a beautiful blonde; however, I do occasionally wear a fedora. The reasons that clients hire investigators are about the same in fiction and fact. While I operate on the periphery of law enforcement, my job is not to enforce laws anymore (I was a federal agent and did enforce the law). There is a subtle but significant difference.

As an investigator, I find myself working on missing people searches, background investigations, skip traces, surveillance, and lots or marital investigations. I also serve legal documents like summons and subpoenas. Depending on the expertise and skill set of the investigator, their duties can cover a lot of different subjects or be focused on one. But all of us do one thing in common. It is our job to collect and organize facts.

Although it would make a lousy TV show, most investigators plan their activities to gather the most information in the best way. Then we analyze the data collected and present it to the client.

To do my job effectively, these are some of the steps I follow:

  • Discuss the case with my client and determine whether the client’s problem can be solved legally and ethically.
  • Plan the information gathering stage and budget the job appropriately.
  • Conduct the investigation. I must gather the evidence in a manner that can be presented in court if and when necessary.
  • Analyze the results of the investigation.
  • Present the findings to my client.

I have multiple methods for gathering information during a case. Surveillance of the target is the one commonly used. During surveillance I follow my target and document where he goes, what he does, and who he meets. This is often a long and tedious process that requires me to go many hours without a break. Interviews are also another good source of information. Although usually under no legal obligation to speak with me, a ruse or building rapport with the target gets them to talk about the subject. I also use public record searches to gather information.

Once the information has been gathered, I analyze the results and create a report that I present to the client, either confirming the client’s suspicions or ruling the subject out as a viable lead.

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Here are some of the ways I gather details:

1) Contacts – One reason people seek out my services is because I can unearth the details that are required. The sources of knowledge a client might require cannot typically be found loitering at parties or hanging around the workplace. Commonly I will need to go through a variety of routes to find their minutiae.

2) Surveillance – This crucial activity takes up much of my time. Investigation firms possess the expertise and the resources essential for truly effective surveillance. Though some of you may say that surveillance is merely observing a subject for a hopelessly boring period of time, we private investigators understand that continued attention is often the key. Before the arrival of the no-fault divorce, surveillance jobs were commonly husbands or wives who believed that they were being cheated on.

Several signs may cause suspicions of unfaithfulness, and while verification will not be needed for the courtroom any longer, people desire to recognize the proof for themselves, before making a decision.

Surveillance occupies much of an investigator’s time. That’s the reason why the following types of tools are important in the business. Listed here are several examples of private investigation surveillance gear.

  • Visual – Years ago, when I conducted surveillance, a pair of binoculars was sufficient to serve as visual equipment. These days, visual observation equipment also means cameras and video recorders. Naturally, the equipment depends on the need. A number of situations require discretion, and these situations necessitate cameras that are disguised as other articles e.g., a keyring or even a mobile phone. Cameras with telescopic lenses allow me to stay far away from my subject. Video confirmation usually is much more damning than a still picture and considering the miniature recorders available as of late, I can record a target without difficulty without being witnessed, even in an everyday situation like the supermarket.
  • Audio – Recording devices are accepted parts of investigation tools. Even if audio recordings are not permitted as evidence in courts, a prosecutor may possibly find the right questions to ask from being attentive to interviews.

3) Interviews – Part of the profession usually involves my interviewing people, especially with insurance or workers’ compensation cases I am investigating. These interviews can be presented as proof in court.

4) Evidence – Giving testimonies in court forms a part of every private investigator’s job. Though I have no official standing as keeper of the law, I can bear witness in court in regards to the facts I have uncovered.

Obviously, this is a simplified version of an intricate process, but it gets the major points of what I do across. I am no longer a law enforcement agent (although I am still a Reserve Officer), but I use similar skills often in a completely different way. I hope this article has given you some insight into my life as a private investigator.

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