Duties of a Private Investigator
A private detective, a private investigator, or investigation agent, is someone who can be employed by people, organizations or NGOs to undertake investigative services against suspected wrongdoers. Private detectives most often work as private investigators or corporate investigators. In some countries, private detectives are also referred to as secretaries of justice or secret police. In the United States, private detectives are generally employed in the context of corporate frauds, stolen assets, missing money and witness-protection. They may also serve as representatives of complainants in court cases such as labor or employment discrimination cases.
Private detectives may serve other clients who are not law enforcement officials. For instance, they may be hired to gather information from people (e.g., credit card collectors) whose privacy laws have been violated to aid creditors in recovering debt. Private detectives may also be employed by the military, the intelligence community, and the law enforcement and security forces for a variety of tasks related to protecting sources and methods of operations against unlawful activity. Although most detectives are employed within the legal department of government agencies, there are also detectives whose work is heavily restricted to computer-related matters.
Private detectives fall into different categories, depending on their area of specialization and their size. Detectives working in the traditional police departments perform routine law enforcement functions, such as booking suspects and conducting routine surveillance. A private investigator may also conduct secret investigations in cases involving criminal justice, terrorism, corporate frauds and public corruption.
The modern day private detective is required to have specialized training in various types of investigations such as cyber crime, computer forensics, corporate frauds and missing persons. Unlike police detectives, private detectives are not permitted to make arrests unless compelled to by a court order. Private detectives are also not allowed to use confidential sources unless specific authorization is granted by a judge. Therefore, it can be assumed that they conduct surveillance to find possible clues to criminal activity, rather than locating missing persons.
Private detectives may use various surveillance tools to gather evidence. One tool used by many investigators is video surveillance. In this type of surveillance, a digital video recorder is used to record images captured by a personal camera of a subject. Some investigators also use video cameras to monitor the activities of their subjects while they are in their custody. Still, others use body worn cameras to monitor subjects while they are out of the police station.
Another tool used by detectives to gather information from a subject is the use of GPS devices to track their subjects. Many private detectives use GPS trackers to locate subjects when they violate the law by being absent from specified places. Also, some detectives may employ the use of video cameras to secretly observe subjects as they move around a private or public place. Private detectives also use a number of inconspicuous location spy tools to gather information from their subjects.
Private detectives may use a computer to obtain additional information. Computer forensics experts analyze computer files to extract passwords, user names, and other important personal and financial data from computers. Other private detectives may even go so far as to get information from the cell phone call log and address book of a subject. Cell phone forensic experts can analyze voice patterns to determine where the calls were made, who the calls were between, and whether any of the calls contained words that are pertinent to the case. While the methods used by detectives to acquire facts from the people they are investigating may be intrusive, they are effective and legal.
There are times, when a private investigation agency may use illegal means to get information from subjects. However, these methods are seldom used because the law allows them to do only if there is reason to believe the information was obtained in violation of public law. Private investigation agencies will often hire private detectives rather than going through a court system to get investigation services. This is because court action can take months and the investigation may not produce sufficient evidence for a private detective to justify the time and expense involved.