A private detective, an investigative agent, or private investigator, is someone who may be hired by people, companies or NGOs to undertake investigative surveillance activities for a variety of legal purposes. Private investigators also often work as freelance investigators for lawyers in criminal and civil matters. Private detectives usually work in partnership with other professionals such as investigators, forensic scientists, computer investigators, corporate security officers and private detectives.
Private detectives may specialize in one or more areas of investigation. Depending on their experience, they may perform business intelligence (business intelligence, competitor analysis, competitor assessment, competitor optimization, market intelligence), corporate security/risk analysis, financial intelligence (financial intelligence, risk assessment and/or risk management), law enforcement and intelligence analysis, criminal justice, healthcare, terrorism, spy and surveillance, private investigation, and private practice. Many private detectives operate Internet investigations and computer crimes investigations. Many private detectives specialize in one or more areas of investigation. They also may conduct investigations that span state and country lines.
There are various types of investigators who may be employed by private detectives. In many instances, the term “investigator” refers loosely to private eye agency. In a courtroom, an investigator is typically referred to as a private eye. The term “private detective” is used to characterize an individual who is engaged in the investigation and surveillance of a case, which is often done outside of the court system. The word “investigator” has a broader meaning in the field of litigation, where many attorneys refer to the individual who conducted a background investigation or conducted personal interviews in a matter relating to a case, instead of calling themselves private detectives.
Private detectives may be employed by government agencies, such as the FBI, IRS, or state police departments. They are generally employed in counter espionage (for malicious hacking) and counter-terrorism cases. In these cases, the private detective may be hired to track the hackers and spies. Private detectives are also employed in a few cases where an individual believes that someone is being abused physically or mentally. In these cases, private detectives are employed to gather evidence that will support the child’s or adult victim’s custody claims.
Unlike some other types of investigators, private detectives do not need to undergo any formal training program. The majority of private detectives have obtained their investigative skills through trial and error, and experience. A number of investigators hold government or college education licensing. However, to become licensed to work as an investigator in most jurisdictions, you will need to attend a college education licensing course. Most college education licensing courses focus on criminal justice or legal procedures. Some colleges will also require that candidates for state licensing receive a background check, fingerprinting, and written ethics certification.
Private detectives typically report to a specific office or department. However, there are currently an estimated 5 million detectives nationwide. As technology advances and crime rates rise, the job outlook for this specialized field will likely grow. As with other similar occupations, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for detectives will continue to increase for at least the next five years.
As video cameras become more commonplace in society, the scope of investigations into private detectives will continue to expand. Private detectives can access digital video cameras to monitor suspects while they are being questioned. In some instances, detectives use hidden video cameras to observe suspects in their homes. This type of monitoring is commonly referred to as a “dobber” system. Another use for a “dobber” system is to remotely control the movement of police officers during an investigation. This remote operation is frequently used by emergency medical services and military units.
Private detectives may be called upon to serve a variety of purposes. Many times they are hired to perform investigations into the possible mishandling of a death, accident, or injury. They may also be called upon to collect information from an individual who is involved in insurance fraud. Insurance fraud is a serious offense, and if someone is injured due to someone else’s negligence, private detectives are usually called to the scene to gather information regarding the incident. In many cases they are also called upon to investigate crimes like identity theft and pedophilia.