By Michael Russell
This article is the first in a series of articles focusing on private investigators; the work that they do and how they go about doing it.
Private detectives and investigators use a number of methods to investigate a variety of matters ranging from tracking a cheating husband to finding a missing person. To carry out their investigations, they use a number of surveillance techniques and tools. To verify facts they make phone calls, or visit a particular place of residence or work. When investigating missing persons they will go as far as interviewing everyone who ever knew the person, even friends and relatives who hadn't seen the person in years. In all these cases private investigators assist attorneys, businesses and even private citizens with legal, financial and personal problems.
These detectives offer a number of services including executive, corporate, and celebrity protection; pre-employment verification; and individual background investigations. They also investigate computer crimes such as identity theft, emails of harassment, and illegal downloading of copyrighted material such as songs and sheet music. They will also investigate matters involving civil liability and personal injury cases, insurance claims and fraud, child custody and protection cases, missing persons cases, and premarital screening. Often they will be hired to prove or disprove infidelity, which are some of the most common cases they handle.
Most detectives are trained to do physical surveillance. They'll do things like observe a site like a person's home, usually from a well hidden vehicle or location. They'll perform this surveillance using still and video cameras, binoculars, and a cell phone, until all the evidence that they need is obtained. This surveillance can sometimes go on for hours or days.
Detectives may also do things like perform computer searches through databases or work with someone who does, if they're not proficient with computers. Computers allow detectives to get an enormous amount of information in a very short time. When investigating a particular person they can get information on individuals' prior arrests, convictions, and civil legal judgments; telephone numbers; motor vehicle registrations; association and club memberships; and a number of other things. If it's a matter of public record a private detective will find it.
The actual duties of a private detective really depend on the needs of their clients. For example, in the case of employee theft a detective may come to work for the company, in the guise of being another employee for the purpose of observing this person. They may even go as far as to strike up a friendship with the suspect. If this sounds like a 1950s grade B movie, it is more real than you can possibly imagine. Things like this go on all the time. Eventually if the detective spots the employee doing something illegal or gets him to confess to his crimes through their friendship, he will report this first to the employer and then eventually testify to this in court.
In our next article in this series we will continue with the duties of a private detective and some of the different types that you will find as there are specialists in this field.
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