We have clients coming to us for any number of reasons and jobs such as insurance investigations, legal support, private investigations, accident and injury cases and personal surveillance, to name a few. Once in awhile though, we will have people come to us who are not quite sure whether they should be hiring a private investigator to take on a particular task and sometimes even entertain the notion of conducting an investigation themselves.
There are a number of reasons why one should always go with a professional however; the most important of which are:
Unless you are very familiar with private investigation work, you’ll be putting yourself in grave danger if you try to do your own private investigation. The reason for this is that you are unlikely to know the art of surveillance or counter-surveillance and are therefore more likely to blow your cover early in the investigation. This exposure could very well lead to greater danger for you when the subject you are trying to follow realizes your presence, especially if the person has criminal experience.
It is far more sensible for you to hire the services of a private investigator that has been specially-trained in the art of undercover and surveillance work. In all likelihood, he or she is in a position and has sufficient experience and resources to go undetected throughout the whole investigation process – something that will be quite impossible for you to achieve.
Although the role of a private investigator may look very simple on television, in fact it is an art form that requires dedication and training. Most private investigators these days have skills beyond simply following a car and taking photographs.
Among other things, today’s private investigators need to know how to use overt and covert cameras to their best advantage, how to install and download GPS tracking devices, how to use trace mail systems, how to use the Internet to obtain information, and how to undertake both threat assessments and risk management profiles.
What’s more, even the usage of surveillance vehicles and driving is a well-honed art form that is far more complicated than the average person could imagine. A professional investigator is not only constantly aware of the subject’s every move, but he must also be in a position to use his experience to anticipate likely or possible movements. He must constantly think many steps ahead and be versatile enough to not only change clothing and appearances during the course of surveillance, but also vehicles.
A true professional will continually undergo courses that keep his skill sets sharp and current. The better companies ensure that their personnel attend counter surveillance courses, evasive driving courses on professional race tracks, training on how to best install tracking devices and covert cameras on vehicles, etc.
Investigation work is not merely about asking a load of questions – although interviewing is a very important skill. More important is the manner in which the investigator asks those questions – making use of probing techniques or asking open-ended questions which will provide leads and answers. Many of today’s investigations involve the precise art of forensic accounting – meticulously following a paper trail and discovering the various stages that a fraudulent transaction has taken. That trail is then followed carefully back to its author or originator. In this way, a business owner who was the victim of a dishonest employee can discover the amount of loss to his company, and with the help of a professional investigator can build a case against that person and seek either a criminal prosecution or civil remedy.
Finally, even verbal investigation skills are honed. For example, private investigators know the exact questions to ask a person, and the optimal way to phrase the questions to obtain the necessary information.
A huge amount of investigation work involves very specialized and considerably expensive equipment. Unless you are a techno-enthusiast, it is unlikely that you have either the equipment itself or the knowledge to use the equipment. As a result, you’ll either not use the technology, or at least not use it to its maximum potential.
A private investigator, on the other hand, likely has first-hand experience on how to use this technology for maximum benefit.
5. The Charisma of Experience
When all else fails, private investigators have the charisma of experience on their side. They’re likely to know when they hear lies, when they are going down the wrong track, and how to handle themselves if their cover is blown and they are detected. You, on the other hand, are unlikely to know any of these tactics, which will result in you not only potentially wasting a lot of time tracking down dead end leads, but also running the risk of getting hurt in the process. Good investigators have a lot of tricks up their sleeves to help them get out of difficult, or even dangerous, situations while delivering results.
6. Knowing the Law and Abiding by the Rules
Unlike you, the do-it-yourself private investigator, a professional investigator is going to know the law and the proper way to gather evidence for possible court proceedings. In light of this, the private investigator will never take the risk of losing evidence or running afoul of the court evidence rules. You, on the other hand, are unlikely to know these procedures.
For example, in certain locales, a spouse or significant other can call the police and have his or her partner arrested for stalking if it is discovered that they are being following by that person (surveillance). The police and properly-registered private investigators are the only persons exempt and allowed to follow individuals and record their movements. Clients often make the mistake of thinking that they can follow their husbands/boyfriends/wives/girlfriends and use this information in subsequent court testimony. Since the evidence was obtained in an illegal manner, it will not be allowed in court.
Another common misconception, well known to the professional investigator but seldom known to clients, is the area of taping conversations. Many clients think that they can hide a recorder or “tap a phone line” and then use the information they obtain in a court proceeding. In certain provinces and states both parties involved in that phone conversation must consent to having it taped. In others however, it is only necessary to have the consent of one of the parties involved. This means that if an investigator is talking to an individual and that individual admits to a wrong doing, or boasts about it to an undercover investigator, that investigator is legally able to record the conversation on a hidden recorder and use this evidence later in a court of law.
Finally, any surveillance procedure undertaken by a private investigator is usually very time-consuming. Assuming that you have to work as well as carry on your do-it-yourself private investigation duties, it is very likely you are not going to have sufficient time to adequately handle all of your obligations. In this case, you’ll have to spend a lot of your own time on a project, only to find out that it was completely wasted if none of the evidence is admissible in court. Worse still, you may inadvertently overstep the line and find yourself in trouble with the authorities. The last thing you want to happen is to go from being the innocent victim to being the defendant. The money that you may be forced to pay an attorney to represent you to undo the damage could have been far better invested in the services of a professional investigator who earns a living by conducting work like that every day for many different clients.