Whenever you hear the term “private investigator”, what usually comes to your mind?
Are you thinking of a guy wearing a trench coat while sitting in a dimly-lit room and is focused on solving some mysteries while puffing a cigar? This is usually what comes to people’s mind about an investigator, and that’s thanks to those spy movies from Hollywood.
But over the past few years, investigators have actually evolved into a commercial sphere. In Australia and in the rest of the world, the role of a Private Investigator is now better understood.
Still, some people are not aware of what a modern-day investigator is capable of, especially these days when private investigators are tech-savvy and have access to innovative tools that can help them with their investigation.
What is a Private Investigator?
Private investigators are known for their excellent skills in observing and their keen eye for detail. Above all, they have a brilliant analytical skill. Sometimes called private detectives, these agents utilise different surveillance tools and investigative techniques in order to harvest accurate information about a subject and gather evidence.
Before private investigators can practice, they must first be licensed by the state where they are based. Most of them work as a full-time investigator and others are only on a contractual basis and are hired by private detective firms, organisations, businesses, and any individual who needs help investigating a person.
Although the services of the private investigators will vary from one case or another and will also depend on the industry they are working for, they usually have similar skillsets. Most of the time, these investigators are hired to uncover facts, gather pieces of evidence, and analyse information. They are also required to submit the results of their investigation to their clients.
Areas Where Private Investigators Are Useful?
Several industries can benefit from the services of skilled investigators.
Their knowledge, expertise and skills are valuable and are usually in-demand in the following areas:
- Undercover investigations
- Screening vendors and employees
- Retail loss and prevention
- Pre-employment screenings
- Polygraph services
- Offering personal protection services
- Locating missing persons
- Crisis intervention
- Criminal investigation
- Computer forensics services
- Personal investigations
According to history, the first private investigation firm was established in France around the early 19th century. The man behind it was a Frenchman named Eugene Francois Vidocq who was an ex-criminal. He named the agency, “Office of Intelligence,” and most of the detectives he hired were ex-criminals. In fact, Vidocq is dubbed as the first criminologist. Using his printing company, Vidocq started producing a bond paper that couldn’t be altered.
Around the mid-1800s, a Scottish man named Allan Pinkerton who immigrated in the US established his own detective agency that he named “Pinkerton National Detective Agency.” The agency was based in Chicago and was launched after the local sheriff awarded him the role of a private detective. Pinkerton was doing well in his role. The highlight of his career was the foiling of former US president Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. It’s worth noting that the agency is still in existence today.
During the olden times, the services of a private investigator are in-demand among the wealthy people, usually businessmen and aristocrats, mainly for solving disputes on labour. The investigators during that time were tasked to perform things that law enforcers were unable to perform. Although the conduct was questionable, it took several years before the private investigation was considered a profession with ethical guidelines in place.
The Evolution of Private Investigators
Pinkerton deserves to be given credit for the evolution of the industry of private investigation since he did a great job of ensuring that the investigators he hired were able to adhere to the codes of conduct and ethical values of being an investigator. The skilled agents of Pinkerton swore never to accept any bribes. They were also advised against accepting reward money. They should be willing to work with law enforcers.
When the middle class started seeking the services of a private investigator, the roles of the investigators slowly shifted. Over time, several people were recognising the valuable work of private detectives since they saw them recovering lost property, solving complex issues in the society, providing answers to complicated questions, and many more. In addition, the private investigators were also very helpful during legal disputes and in cases where a client wants to achieve peace of mind by uncovering something suspicious.
As time went on, the public started to gain a better understanding of the services that private investigators provide, either through the media outlets, word of mouth, and portrayals on Hollywood movies. This resulted in a significant increase in the demand for the services of private investigators. These days, it’s common to hear individuals, organisations, businesses, and law firms hiring investigators in solving all sorts of issues, from personal problems to the most complex commercial problems.
With the advent of technology, the roles of private investigations were transformed. Thanks to the Internet, it’s now easy for investigators to get access to powerful databases for research. They also rely on the World Wide Web for resources that can help them to locate and identify profiles of the person they are investigating.
The private investigators of today are also equipped with tools and devices that can easily record evidence, although there are laws that must be followed when it comes to using these tools. These rules will vary from one jurisdiction to another. And although these resources have given investigators an advantage, the criminals have also taken advantage of these. Con artists, stalkers, and other people with malicious intent use these tools to carry out their illegal activities.
Because of the increasing demand for private investigators, there are now colleges and universities that train students who are interested to work as private investigators. And as with any profession, the private investigators must undergo rigorous training and must be familiar with the ethical codes that are expected to be followed.