What Does a Private Investigator Do?
Private investigators are the human assets of the law enforcement community. Although private investigators serve with the police at times, their work tends to be quite different. When a private investigator gathers evidence for a court case, he is really performing an extrajudicial function-solving crimes for the government. Their objective is to identify criminals and to help the state prosecute perpetrators by providing sufficient evidence to government prosecutors. Private investigators obtain many kinds of evidence that would normally not be available to the general public, including financial, business, and medical records, confidential conversations, and victim/client statements.
Many private investigators work as investigators for a law firm or in a similar capacity as a police officer. They collect evidence for the defense in trials and are usually instrumental in developing strategies to defend the accused. Many private investigators operate independently, working only for themselves, but in some cases they may also work for the government as a part of a larger investigation team. In many ways, private investigators almost look like former police officers, except they have a different occupation.
The typical private investigator is an investigator trained in many different types of police work, including computer forensics, commercial crime, intellectual property theft, kidnapping, racketeering, and fraud. They can also specialize in any number of specialties. As an example, some private investigators work exclusively in white collar crime (such as embezzlement and fraud) or in criminal defense, surveillance, and related intelligence work.
The typical job duties of a private investigator vary from case to case. Occasionally, the case may require physical attendance at the scene of an incident, but many private investigators instead use digital video and voice recorders to collect evidence and provide testimony. Sometimes police investigators collect statements from witnesses and use them as well. Sometimes the role of a private investigator is so different from that of a police officer that the two must collaborate or work separately to achieve the same results. Private investigators often communicate with their clients by email or phone, which makes it very difficult for law enforcement officials to investigate.
A lot of what private investigators do is very similar work to what police officers do. For instance, they interview witnesses, observe movements that suggest the commission of a crime, and obtain physical evidence that may link a suspect to the crime. They document all of this information and use it in court. But just like police officers, private investigators follow the evidence wherever it leads, and are prepared to take a position on the ground any time it is called for.
In a famous case, a private investigator named Patrickacco swooped in on the suspect after he was seen on the tracks that day. He had nothing to do with the investigation, but simply wanted to speak with the suspect. After tailing the suspect, Patrickacco confronted him and demanded to know where he was every day. Eventually the suspect told him where he went every day, and gave him a list of his business associates. The list included his cell phone number and matched it to the number the police investigator had noticed on the tracks. In that case, the private investigator proved to be a very important and useful partner for the police officer.
Today, many private investigators specialize in complex cases such as computer crimes. Their services can also include intellectual property crimes, hijackings, corporate sabotage, and embezzlement. In many instances, these investigations require information that cannot currently be found in public databases. Many private investigators have access to large amounts of public information that is not available in public records. With that access they can provide the police with intelligence that would not otherwise be available to them.
Another popular question from citizens is what about private investigators who investigate their fellow citizens for criminal activity. Unfortunately, this is often much harder than it sounds. For instance, many police officers perform stop and search functions for suspicious drivers based on license plate data and similar public records. However, private investigators rarely have access to such records. Additionally, many private investigators specialize in civil litigation, which means that they often only represent plaintiffs in lawsuits, such as wrongful death and personal injury cases. These specialized skills may not be useful to police officers if they are investigating officers of the opposite sex.