You have taken the first step towards searching for a private investigator and have found several… how do you compare or chose the right one? Just like doctors, attorneys and mechanics they are not all the same! If you have never needed the services of an investigator this may be an additional stress on top of an already stressful situation. Here are some things that will help you understand better what you are looking for when choosing a private investigator.
Let’s start with personality even though it is arguably not more important than experience the bottom line is if you don’t feel comfortable with their personality you are not going to have a good experience and possibly not achieve the desired goal. Many investigations such as child custody, family law, spousal infidelity deal with very personal conversations and information. You must have a person you trust and feel comfortable with. You will most likely be spending a lot of time going over the details of your case together. I believe you want a straight shooter, someone who will talk straight forward with you about what they can and can not do, whether it is achievable and what it will take to do so. You will want someone aggressive in a professional manner leaving no stone unturned. And you will want someone who is not bugged by your 1 am calls and understands the emotions and hardship you are facing.
Well this one seem like the easiest one of all to figure out right? Not so fast! While i must tread water with my peers while I write this and some investigators have credentials that are very commendable the question is experience not credentials. Someone who has many years in the military followed by years in law enforcement who retired and became a PI is what most people believe make for the best investigator. Lets break this down a little more. Most cases a private investigator is hired for is information gathering or surveillance. While our military is amazing and I have huge respect for the military and every soldier When the military experience is listed you must ask how many years were operating a tank or being a mechanic and how many were investigations? Same with law enforcement although a beat cop in a black in white on a daily basis questions people with a uniform and badge were they a detective or an investigator? You are looking for someone who has experience in the trade you are hiring. So when the website says 100 years of combined experience you have to really ask yourself how is that going to help your case? Most cases a private investigator is hired for is research and surveillance in the public sector. Having worked with numerous investigators over the years I feel it is very important to find an investigator or team with investigation and surveillance experience.
There is really so much to talk about here, unfortunatelyI am only going to touch base a on this but please look for additional articles regarding Private Investigation Trades and Trade Mastery. The one thing you know you need is a good specialist, right? Most all PI websites have huge lists of types of cases they cover and yet at the same time they are telling you that you need someone who specializes. This raises the questions of if they list so many types of cases they handle then are they just going to tell you they specialize in the one you called about I mean how can they be a specialist of all they have listed? I will break it down for you this way. First off there are many one man shows that take on this trade. When they get a job that requires help they makes some calls and may have a smaller network of other PI’s that will jump in to help or cover for the investigator you hired. Then there are private investigators with investigative teams as I would like to call them. This mean that they have vetted experienced guys that work together on a regular basis and the product information is looked at by several sets of eyes or the surveillance is performed by investigators that work as a team. You can throw a bunch of guys together on the weekend to play for fun football but a well practiced team is a completely different animal. There are many types of investigations that are specialties like hand writing expert, building litigation, room debugging, traffic reenactment to name a few these are specialties that most likely will be brought in by your private investigator as a service or in addition to or as part of the entire case. Bottom line is you don’t want to hire one PI who uses others that they don’t know exactly what they are going to do or how they are going to perform. Most cases include surveillance and research and may include a trade specialist or expert.
Examples of just a few types of cases that may require research, surveillance, witness locate and a different type of specialist.
• Family Law Case generally include research, backgrounds, surveillance but could also need a specialty trade such as hand writing expert, debugging, banking and financial expert
• Criminal Law Case generally include research, backgrounds, surveillance or witness locating but also could need specialists such as expert reading police report, traffic reenactment if a vehicle was involved, experts in medical field, DNA, witness interviewing, etc and for these types of cases law enforcement background can be important.
• Missing Child Cases generally include research, interviewing and surveillance but will also require the right type of investigator because often times these investigation lead to dangerous neighborhoods. Some investigator maybe great at research or surveillance but hesitant to enter certain neighborhoods, talk with gang members, drug dealer/ users and be willing to go where the investigation leads.
• Spousal Cheating Cases generally require research, backgrounds and surveillance but by the right investigator who is comfortable surveilling in close quarters such as bars and restaurants and knows how to blend in but can also require specialties such as GPS tracking, hidden cameras or a good multi person team. Juvenile, Homicide, Traffic, Cyber, Family Law, Criminal Law, Missing Person, Cheating and more all have something in common on almost every case. Research and surveillance along with an experienced team and vetted network.
Well the word network itself sounds important but exactly why? Having a good local team is important but often times cases could require a trade specialist or an investigator to check on something far away. You investigator must have trusted knowledgeable people for these specialties or you could end up without locating or discovering something important to you case. There are two types of network as I like to think of it. There is a local network of the different types of specialist and there is access to a broader network. Unfortunately in the private investigative world too many PI’s use the broader access network to often for local cases. This means they don’t have a good trusted local network. Broad or CALI list serve is a broader network of investigators that should be used only to find investigators for far away or specialties not in replacement for a true local build team or network.
The best way to explain it would be by giving a couple examples. Lets say you are investigating a case and someone important to the case may be at a location that is out of state or even a 8 hour drive one way. It wouldn’t be cost effective to pay your investigator to drive 16 hours just to verify this so having a good network of trusted investigators could result in being able to have someone local make the initial verification saving lots of money and time especially if who you were looking for is not there. Another example may be that some information needed may be old and not up to date online but it is hours away available at a court house. These are just a couple simple examples of why having a reputable company with a commanding network is so important. Most investigators you hire will not be specialist in and writing, traffic reenactment, office debugging and many other experts or specialties that your case may need.
If they don’t have the time the investigation requires when it requires it then opportunities can be lost!
Your investigator must have the combined experience and a trusted network when and where the case leads. Often times when you need a private investigator you need them now or the case requires unusual hours. Make sure you discuss with your investigator clearly what you are looking for and what type of timeframe it could take to achieve it.
There is lots to discuss when it comes to cost. Most investigations are billed at an hourly rate some with milage included or added and billed towards a deposit paid. The hourly rate is important but more important than the $20-$50 per hour the rates may very is what is done with the time being billed. Every case is different from the people the location and the circumstances. Having the right investigator is like having the right general contractor to build a home. He must know when a surveillance should only require one car instead of two or when he should use a network source to gather some information because its more cost effective for the client. Having the experience to look at a case and prioritize what information should be gathered and then laying out the next steps using the the right man power to achieve the goal. A very simple example would be if the case was to watch and prove that a spouse was cheating then you would look at there schedule in whole and select the most likely times to surveil the spouse because in most cases it is unrealistic or cost prohibited to surveil someone 24 hours around the clock. Having the experience to lay out, prioritize a case and implement a plan can make a big difference in what it ultimately costs or you may run out of funds before achieving the intended goal.
Resources are different than a network. In every investigation the tool the investigator has can make a very big difference in how they handle a case. If all your investigator has is one surveillance vehicle and a camera then the product he can offer you will be just that. For some simple cases that may work but for most cases it wont cut it. Having available tools and resources such as a variety of vehicles, cameras, GPS trackers, night vision, hidden interior/ exterior recording devices, debugging equipment etc. If you chose an investigator who does not have all the available tool readily available they most likely wont be used. You want to hire someone who has what is needed for your case when its needed. If the investigation calls for you to place a tracker on a vehicle or plant a camera in a tree you you don’t want to hear that an opportunity was passed up because your investigator doesn’t have the equipment at the time or could get a network source out fast enough.