“I’ve decided to quit my job and open my own private investigation firm.” Here were the most common reactions to my announcement:
- “I would totally make an awesome PI! I love crime shows and think it would be so much fun to go spy on somebody. If you ever need a stake-out buddy, I’m your man.”
- “Really (statement). Pause.... "Why?”
- “That is so cool. What are you going to be doing?"
When I became a crime analyst, very few people had an accurate picture of my work. Most people thought I was a character from CSI, going out to crime scenes and collecting evidence. I say “character” from CSI because, admittedly, I’ve never seen an episode. (Go ahead and cringe). I had no idea I would receive the same reactions as a private investigator. (By the way, a crime analyst typically sits behind a computer and detects crime patterns, researches long-term and short-term crime problems, and links intelligence data).
Most people think private investigators conduct surveillance and catch people in the act of wrongdoing in some capacity or another. Some private investigators do just that, but our profession involves so much more. Personally, I don’t conduct any surveillance at all, ever. I have a trusted former colleague now retired from the police department who contracts for all of my cases that involve surveillance. What most would consider the most glamorous side of private investigations, my work is the opposite. Just as I sat behind a computer as a crime analyst and conducted much of the “behind the scenes” work for the police department, I’m doing the very same thing as a private investigator.
I investigate people through social media and other open sources that can be found online, over the phone, at the local library, and courthouses. Open source intelligence, known by some as OSINT, is intelligence produced from publicly-available information such as government documents, court documents, news, social media, and any other public information. Because I use information that is available to anyone, some find it difficult to understand the purpose in hiring a professional in this area if they can just do it themselves.
Just because the information is out there, accessible by anyone, doesn’t mean it’s an easy undertaking. There are rules, steps, etiquette, laws, methods. As a licensed private investigator, I have studied the rules, followed the steps, learned the etiquette, been tested on the laws, and used the methods. I am efficient. I know what I am looking for, where to find it, and how to get it in the least amount of time and cheapest way possible.
In addition to social media and other open source investigations, I also specialize in adoption-related matters such as due diligence adoption searches and reconnecting birth families with adoptees. I gained a personal stake in this area when I adopted my son in 2015. I’ve been on the receiving end of the adoption process. Adoption is a very personal process to me and I love being a part of it for others. More on this in an upcoming blog post.