DIY PI: Hiring a Search Vs. Doing It Yourself

What does a private investigator do that I cannot do myself?  If you’ve ever asked yourself that question or wondered if there really is a use for hiring a private investigator during a day and age when so much information is at your fingertips, read on.  This article is for you.

I’ve always been a curious person, attentive to detail, organized, and computer literate.  I have a habit of totally immersing myself into whatever it is I am learning.  I learn from others, but then I really dive in deep on my own.  In fact, much of my investigations knowledge is self-taught.

I was a school teacher who decided to pursue a masters degree in criminal justice.  I had no background in criminal justice, so I took several undergraduate classes at my local university before starting my masters.  After completing my masters and realizing I was completely enthralled in the topic, I began forming a relationship with my local police department.  I requested a meeting with the chief of police and somehow convinced him to create a crime analyst position for me.  While I worked seven years as the department’s first analyst, I taught myself all I could about my job and carved out a sturdy foundation for the next analyst who would take my place when I decided to get my private investigator’s license.

I spent over a year immersing myself into books, articles, blogs, courses, conferences, and just about anything I could get my hands on that was PI-related.  I’m not happy being a mediocre-anything, so that’s why I spend so much time studying, reading, and creating lofty goals for myself.  As I studied and gained valuable knowledge, I began to realize that conducting an investigation without a private investigator license is not the best idea in the world.

So what DOES a private investigator do that the average person cannot?  This is a loaded question with more than one answer.  Firstly, a private investigator is licensed to conduct investigations in most all states.  Obtaining a PI license generally requires knowledge of state and federal laws, continuing education qualifications, a state assessment, and liability insurance coverage.  Secondly, private investigators have several resources at their fingertips that the average Joe does not.  Some of these proprietary databases are extremely valuable as they serve as a jumping off point for lead information in a case.  The public is often offered online pay resources that offer old and outdated information whereas private investigator resources offer up-to-date and more detailed information.  Thirdly, the average person might find him or herself in a boatload of trouble if they don’t lawfully conduct their investigation.  Also, he or she probably doesn’t have the expertise to conduct an investigation in such a way that will be acceptable in a court of law if that is where the investigation eventually leads.  And finally, private investigators know stuff that the average person does not.  It’s our job to investigate.  We do it every day.

So even if you have a personality that seems to lend itself to self-investigating, it might not be the best idea to follow through on your curious nature, or perhaps only follow through to a certain point.  I mean, most people can conduct a simple Google search or look someone up on Facebook.  But what if the person you are searching for changes their name, doesn’t want to be found, has virtually no social footprint, or is on social media under an alias?  What if you decide to follow someone who ends up being dangerous and realizes they are being followed?  What if you are acting innocently enough, but unknowingly violate a trespass law that lands you in jail?  These are only a few scenarios that could lead you to a dead end, or worse, into some trouble.

Really thorough and effective investigating takes time, commitment, a dogged determination, training, knowledge of the law, and the proper resources.  Private investigators are around for a reason.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to one if you have a mystery of your own you’d like to solve.  You can still live through them vicariously.