Tuesday, December 27, 2011
I initially obtained my PI license while still an active LAPD police officer more as a lark the anything else. I never thought about using it, especially while I was still on the job. It was more along the lines of an interesting topic of conversation. One day while I was a detective I was sitting at the prosecution table as the investigating officer on a case. During the pause in the preceding, I happened to pull out my newly arrived PI license. The Assistant District Attorney who was prosecuting the case was one whom I had assisted in a number of cases throughout my career and knew my abilities. When she asked me about it, I told her I had just gotten my license. She then asked me if I was going to use it. I told her I really hadn’t thought much about actively using it while I was still on the job. She then went on to tell me that her husband was the senior partner in a Los Angeles civil law firm that had trouble finding any good private investigators. She told me she was going to have him contact me. Sure enough, a few days later, he called me and asked if I would be interested in working with him on a large civil case. From that point on I received a steady flow of civil cases and referrals to other attorneys. Divine intervention, fate, luck, whatever you want to call it, my life was changed in a fateful moment.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
You’ve been hired to investigate an incident that took place 3 months prior. Let’s say it’s a traffic accident. It occurred on a specific day at a specific time. How do you go about finding any witnesses to the accident, particularly if it happened some time ago. In a case like this, you go back to the tried and true old fashion way, you conduct a canvass of the area.
Time permitting, it’s very important that you conduct your witness canvass on the same day of the week and at the same time that the incident happened. Let me give an example of what I mean. An attorney hired me to investigate a traffic accident. The accident took place on a weekend night shortly after midnight. It occurred on Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood. I went there on the same day of the week and began my canvass about a half hour before the accident occurred. There were a few stores still open, and I happened to find an employee at one of the businesses who happened to be looking out the window and saw the accident. Because he was a night time employee, I never would have found him if I had gone out in the daytime to canvass.
Another reason you want to go out at the same time as the incident is that you can see what the lighting in the area was like at the time of the incident along with the pedestrian and vehicle traffic. This gives you a much better feel for the incident scene similar to when it occurred. You also may find a witness on a delivery truck or other work related vehicle that happens to stop by around the time of your incident. As I’ve stated before on this blog, you only need to find one witness to break a case wide open.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
With all these seemingly insurmountable difficulties, how then do gang murders get solved. My answer, in one word, is HEAT! You have to be relentless. You keep constant pressure on the rival gang, both with uniformed police presence, gang units, and good detective work. You make it difficult for them to conduct their criminal activities. I’ll give you an example. My partner and I handled a gang murder where an OG (Original Gangster, or older member) had been shot down in front of his house shortly after being paroled. Besides being out in that neighborhood every day, we arrested over the span of the investigation numerous gang members for guns, narcotics, parole violations and various other felonies and assorted misdemeanors. We even arrested one individual for an outstanding traffic warrant on Christmas Eve. Like I said, the heat was relentless. You interview every arrestee in an attempt to gain intelligence on the gang and especially to turn them as an informant on your murder case. You go into the jails every day and interview arrestees who have been arrested in the vicinity of the murder. You’re looking to develop an informant who can give you the information you need to identify the killers. Believe me, not too many people, no matter how hard core they are, want to spend a lot of time incarcerated in prison if they can give out information that can cut their sentence down. You just have to be patient and skilled on this approach.
The gang unit’s expertise is invaluable in identifying suspect(s) real names from their gang names and monikers. Eventually when an informant’s information is corroborated or a witness comes forward and the suspect(s) have been identified, you begin to close in on the killers. Believe it or not, some people still refuse to be intimidated and come forward as witnesses and do the right thing. The detectives then obtain search and arrest warrants and attempt to obtain additional evidence, like the gun(s) used, clothing worn etc. Gang members don’t always get rid of guns, and they often pass them around to their fellow gang members. Once the suspect(s) have been apprehended, the detective’s final effort is to attempt to obtain a confession. Oftentimes it may come down to the suspect(s) walking on the charges unless the detectives are skilled interrogators and can obtain a confession.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Here are some additional tips on conducting walking surveillances. You don’t have to be on the same side of the street to follow someone. I find it’s actually more advantageous to walk on the opposite side of the street when following someone. Even when they’re ‘hinked up’ and looking for a tail, they usually only look behind and rarely if ever look across the street. Try putting An object between yourself and the subject. The best one is a parked car. You can stand to the rear of a parked car and peer through the rear & front windows of the vehicle and observe an individual for a long distance without exposing yourself. You can also use mailboxes, telephone poles or any other object that’s handy. If there’s a bus bench around, sit down and enjoy the rest while you take in the subject. Use store windows as mirrors and building entrances to mask your profile. You can also walk pass the Subject and and view him as he walks by. A great way to do that is to enter a store and then watch him through the window.
My partner and I once followed two car burglars on foot during the Christmas shopping season for over 3 hours in downtown Los Angeles before they finally hit a car. It was in the business district and there were numerous pedestrians, parked vehicles and open air parking lots along the streets. They cased a number of vehicles but for some reason would back off on each one. They finally went into a parking lot where they quickly punched the trunk lock with a screwdriver, removed the stored gifts and closed the trunk, all within a few seconds. They were surprised to say the least when my partner and I appeared from out of nowhere and hooked them up. Remember, patience and good tactics are the key to any successful surveillance.