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  1. isaac223

    isaac223 Senior Member

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    How Do Private Investigators Operate?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by isaac223, Aug 17, 2017.

    While I'm well aware of the mindset that in anything outside of police procedurals, delving too deep into the actual intricacies of the operations of police precincts or what have you is often a waste of words and/or time, but at the same time, of course I need to know enough to give a detective reasonable motivation, reason and/or authority to investigate a crime scene.

    Do they work in groups and/or on their own? How would they be hired to investigate particular crimes or do surveillance on a particular person/group if they work in a group? How would they be hired to investigate particular crimes or do surveillance on a particular person/group if they work alone? If they work in a group, can they request jobs and/or are the jobs handed to them in a procedural manner? If they work alone, how seriously would people working in crime scene investigation or the judicial system take their words/how much stock would be put in their investigations, discoveries and accounts of what happened? What role do they play in the detainment of a criminal/suspect and their trials in court?
     
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  2. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Real PIs or those in fiction?

    Seems to me that they'd be hired to investigate particular crimes only if the police don't think it's worth looking into but the client is sure it is. In fiction you constantly get the professional or amateur private eye poking into crimes under police investigation, but I don't know if that's possible in the real world. You could talk to some real PIs or some real cops.

    I suppose if they worked for an agency they could have jobs handed to them and work in pairs or whatever. Or someone on his/her own could have an assistant who could help with surveillance.

    It's likely that the private eye would/could serve as a witness in a court case. But arresting and detaining the alleged perp would be up to law enforcement.

    My protag in my WIP hires a PI to track down the guy (the antagonist) who's spreading scandalous rumors about him so he can sue him for libel. Unfortunately he can only afford three days of his time and doesn't get much to go on.
     
  3. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    You would have to check the local laws of wherever your story takes place. Some places have some pretty strict laws on PIs and some don't. I used to have a license to work as a PI because it was the same license I needed to work private security, but I needed to be attached to an agency to practice as a PI, but even that's changed recently up here. I would think internal procedures of how cases are distributed would depend on however that particular company distributed cases and how high up the totem pole your particular detective is. For any evidence a private investigator uncovers to be admissible in court, it has to be well documented (like photographs and stuff) and any physical evidence has to collected by police. If your guy finds a murder weapon with bloody fingerprints on it, he has to call the cops and report it and then come with a forensics team after obtaining a warrant (if needed) so there's less doubt as to its authenticity. And PIs aren't officially able to break any laws without recrimination. This includes lock-picking and break and entering. However, if a PI was in someones house without the owners permission and found evidence, then I suppose he could call in his own break and enter and the cops could go in to ascertain the crime and find the evidence themselves. Probably wouldn't look so good on him if he needed to testify at the same trial, though, if he got caught.
     
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  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    In the real world it is relatively rare for a PI to get involved with a serious criminal case.... mostly they are doing divorce tails, or working for insurance companies or benefits offices trying to catch fraudsters. Theres also a whole seperate industry in corporate espionage - ie stealing secrets from competitors and/or trying to stop them stealing them from you. Then you have the private milliatary companies offering body guard work and close protection.
     
  5. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    If a PI gets involved in a criminal case then it's usually because the family of a missing person or victim of a violent crime hires them because the police haven't been able to find anything, or the family thinks X person did it, but the police don't. Chances are very high the PI won't find anything the new and will probably have less resources than the police.
     
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  6. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I have a writer friend who's a licensed PI and worked in the field until recently. Would you like me to ask if she'll talk to you 1:1? She's not on the forum so it'd have to be email or similar.
     
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  7. CerebralEcstasy

    CerebralEcstasy Active Member

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    A good mix would be an ex-police officer turned PI. She was working fraud types of cases, and of course infidelity cases. The thing though that stuck with me was that she commented that although women were less likely to use a tail on their husbands, when they did come to her, they were right 8/10 times that he was being unfaithful. In some of the research I've done, we were taught how to pick apart intuition and how it was wrong half the time, so this was something that stood contrary to that piece of learning.
     
  8. CerebralEcstasy

    CerebralEcstasy Active Member

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    I can't share with you how they operate, but may be able to give you a piece of information that will create a scene for you which is real.

    My husband was a technician who installed security systems for people. He installed a rather extensive one for a PI, he was taken into a room with a large amount of files, and a number of cabinets, but it was slightly chaotic. He said that the individual was rather neurotic, wanting a system so solid that if a mouse crawled across the floor it would go off. He was operating the business out of his house, and wanted to be sure that he had state of the art cameras and so on. My husband has always been the type to install what a person needed rather than what the salesman told them they needed. Yet, this man was very insistent, where a person would have a glass break for all the windows, and motion sensors, this man wanted 2-3 instead of the one, when the one would have done just fine. He was also quite suspicious.
     
  9. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A good example of this in fiction is Robert L. Parker's Walking Shadow.
     
  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Isn't it Robert B Parker ?

    That aside although they are hugely popular the Spenser books lack realism ... he'd be in jail in reality and Lt (now Cpt) Quirk would be in a shitload of trouble for the stuff he lets him get away with - not mention that the number of organised crime figures he pisses off him and hawk would have been hit by now ... Tony Marcus is a classic case, they conspire to get him jailed in double deuce, but when he gets out he just forgives them and works with them on future cases... Personally I'd have said Walking Shadow was one of the worst, the way in which he gets involved in the first place is hugely contrived and it goes downhill from there.
     
  11. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It is, indeed. Serves me right for posting before I've had my morning coffee.

    No argument. It just happened to be the first thing that sprang to mind.
     
  12. isaac223

    isaac223 Senior Member

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    Thank you for the straightforward and very helpful answer! Follow-up question though -- if they worked as apart of an agency, is requesting to be put on a certain case also allowed? Is there a selection process for who gets put on what kinds of cases? Etc.

    What PI's can legally get away with isn't damn near as liberal as some detective fiction makes it to be, is it? However, thank you, too, for the straightforward and helpful answer. How a PI carries out his job seems to require case-by-case moral consideration, and it does seem like something I could play with depending on the case I'm writing.

    Thank you for this, but this is likely something I'm going to same some liberties with -- given that I'm going to be using this information to work on what is primarily murder mysteries, of course. Though I'm unsure how he'll operate given that the police will likely also be doing their job in investigating the crime scene, nor how his presence would change anything nor how the PI's even going to find an opportunity to be rightly put on the job. So I suppose the liberties I'm taking are still something I'm unsure about.

    Yes please, that'd be wonderful! I'll be able to inbox you my e-mail address, so please relay it to her.

    This gives me a good idea of what personality traits a PI would have, which is exceptionally helpful. Thank you very much.
     
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  13. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    They're almost always hired by a friend/family member of the victim in fiction. Or to locate a missing person who invariably winds up dead. Or sometimes a murder occurs tangentially within another investigation and the detective "has" to find the killer. This happened in Dashiel Hammet books all the time (Maltese Falcon, et al.).

    You can take plenty of liberties depending on the setting. Oftentimes the PI has a friend on the police force who feeds them information. In real life, people do hire PIs to investigate murders (I think), but the PI doesn't have access to the crime scene, can't issue subpoenas or summons, and can't execute search warrants or court orders (again... I think). I'd imagine this would only happen after the case went cold and the police stopped investigating.

    So long as you detective keeps poking her nose in where it doesn't belong, gets beaten by thugs at every turn, gets ridiculed by police, is broke, smokes and drinks a lot, bangs the person who hires her, and suffers extreme mental fatigue from the rigors of the case, you should be fine :D
     
  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'd forget about the real world and look at some private detective fiction Spenser (as mentioned) Nick Sharman, V I Warshawki, Kinsey Milhone, Myron Bolitar, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, and so on ..... or Phillip Marlowe if you want to take it old school. Reality has very little to do with how any of these operate, there is a difference between realistic and plausible because readers of PI mysteries expect to suspend disbelief.

    (authors in order, Robert B Parker, Mark Timlin, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Harlen Coben, and Robert Crais )
     
  15. isaac223

    isaac223 Senior Member

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    Don't forget having a diet comprised entirely of instant noodles.
     
  16. Aardvark

    Aardvark Member

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    Last edited: Sep 6, 2017

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