Monday, October 24, 2011


You’re a newly licensed PI, and now you’re looking for clients.  Of course you get nice business cards and letterhead done (Hint:  Use good bonded paper and have it done by a professional printer).  Start reading books and articles about running a small business.  Read up on marketing and advertising.  Join one of your state’s professional investigative associations.  Attend their meetings and networking with experienced investigators.  Most are only too willing to help out a new person in the field.  Join the association’s List Serve. It’s an invaluable way to gain knowledge and also to ask questions about issues that com up in your work.  Attend your association's seminars.  You will not only learn a great deal, but it's another way to network with other investigators.  When starting out and things are slow, try to gain sub-contract work from a reputable, experience PI.   Once you’ve established your work with them, ask them if they wouldn’t mind helping you learn the business end of the work.  I was fortunate after I retired to have two PIs mentor me.  One is flamboyant, colorful, larger than life, and the best business mind I know in this field.  He is also a very under rated investigator.  The other runs a large firm and has an extremely professional operation.  Both were very generous of their time in teaching me the business end of private investigations.  Lastly, have ethics in this business.  When someone helps you as a mentor, don’t be a dog and then turn around and try to steal their clients.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Especially to a new person just starting out in surveillance work, one of the big questions that comes up often in a tail is, am I burned?  Has the subject made me?  Here’s two incidents that happened to me which may be of help to you.  When I was a young police officer, I was able to get a loan to my division’s narcotic unit.  I was fortunate to work with some exceptional dope cops there who had the patience to teach me their trade.  On my first vehicle surveillance we were following a couple of amphetamine abusers or ‘tweekers.’  They drove erratically, pulling over for no reason, making u-turns, and just doing things that to a new-be like me I just knew we were burned.  The veteran detective I was with just told me to stay on them and keep following them.  Eventually we arrested them, and when we interviewed them I was shocked to learn they had no idea they were being followed.  The second incident happened after I retired and was working as a PI.  I had been hired by a client on a cheating spouse case.  I followed the errant spouse to a swap meet and some other locations and at some point he made a U-turn in the middle of a busy street.  I was able to pick him up again, eventually following him to a residence where picked up his girlfriend and went shopping with her.  The point is, most of the time on a surveillance the subject has no idea he/she is being followed.  In the first incident, the veteran detective told me that ‘tweekers’ always drive crazy.  In the second incident, I had the job experience to feel that even though the subject made a u-turn, he wasn’t looking back in his rear view mirror or turning around to look directly at my vehicle.  I stayed on him, got good photographs, and had one satisfied client.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


How do you deal with the police when you’re a PI?  What do you do if you’ve never been a police officer, yet you need to work with them or get information from them on one of your cases.  Here’s what I suggest.  First try to contact a police officer or detective that you know who works the same department as the detective handling your case.  Ask him/her for an introduction to the police officer your trying to contact.  If you don’t know it already, cops are very clannish.  It always helps to have a gatekeeper.  Once you have a contact person on your case, try to go in person.  I always find that it’s a lot harder for someone to blow me off in person then it is on the phone. Here’s another helpful hint.  The best time to contact a police detective is between 7/8:00 AM.  They usually try to get a jump on their paperwork and case load at that time before they head out to court or the field.  Once you actually get to speak with the detective, don’t be intimidated.  Most detectives will be helpful, especially if you have something to give them that will help them in a case.  Once they’ve warmed up to you in person, they’ll often tell you things they normally wouldn’t tell you over the phone.  Here’s another tip.  Every detective bureau has its share of slugs and does nothings.  But they also have their one or two hard working street detectives who know all the bad guys, the crime patterns in their area, and will work their tails off with any information you can provide them.  The trick here is you have to find that one.  If you don’t know anyone in that department and/or division, try to find a veteran uniformed officer, identify yourself, and ask him point blank, “Who’s the best street cop in the detective bureau.”  That’s the guy you want to deal with. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Recently I had to deliver some legal papers to a client from a law firm who was having difficulty getting them to respond to their numerous calls and letters.  These were important papers that needed their signature, and with a court deadline looming, they couldn’t get them to respond.  Getting increasingly desperate, they turned to me for help.  I went out to the client’s residence and door knocked it with no response.  Now what do you do?  Do you wait or do you come back?  I usually choose to move my car from the location and park away from the residence but from a vantage point where I can still see it.  You can usually get away with a stakeout for about ½ to 1 hour by reading a newspaper in the car without the neighbors getting too nosey. After sitting in the hot sun and waiting an hour, I figured I’d give it one more try before I left.  As I parked near the location and was in the process of putting on my sports jacket, who just happens to drive up and park in the driveway?  None other than the law firm’s wayward client! I got the paperwork signed, and one more happy and satisfied client.  Like I always say, better to be lucky than good.