A private investigator, an investigator, private detective, or private enquiry agent, is someone who can be employed by people, companies or NGOs to undertake investigative services. Private investigators may work for lawyers in criminal and civil matters. The term ‘private investigator’ refers to those working in this area of investigation. Private detectives may also work independently for themselves, though they are still technically considered to be working for a particular company or organisation.
There are several types of private investigators. Some specialise in criminal justice, intellectual property crime, corporate security and white collar crime. Others specialise in intelligence, terrorism, fraud and public safety. There are many styles of working for private investigators, including surveillance, corporate security, background checks, surveillance of transport for corporate and private passengers, background investigations on persons of public interest, and missing person investigations. Many private investigators specialise in one or a small number of areas.
Private investigators may use a variety of surveillance techniques to investigate crimes. For instance, they may install hidden cameras to secretly film suspects, video tape or monitor vehicle movements, video monitors to remotely observe people, video and monitoring technology to spy on employees, GPS tracking to locate and monitor suspects, and computers to monitor electronic communication in and out of the workplace. There are many other techniques available. Private investigators may use GPS tracking to find and monitor vehicle locations. They can obtain physical search warrants, and obtain phone records and bank accounts to discover evidence of criminal activity. Sometimes, private investigators may use computer forensic techniques to discover deleted text and email messages, and obtain access to any digital data storage devices that were used during the offense.
The main qualifications for private investigators are a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in law, criminal justice or a related field, and experience in at least two related disciplines. Most private investigators have law degrees and criminal justice degrees. A background check is always conducted when interviewing potential candidates. Sometimes, there is a trial and the investigator will need to be able to competently argue their case in court. Private investigators may work for the principal investigator or for a law firm, where they report directly to the principal investigator.
Most private investigators begin as interns. Working with law enforcement agencies, and gaining experience in surveillance, investigation, and criminal activity investigation is an excellent way to begin working as a private Investigator. Working as an intern with a law enforcement agency allows you to gain real world experience working and communicating with other professionals. After law enforcement internship, most private investigators will seek jobs with larger law enforcement agencies or in the private security industry.
Another way to become a private investigator is to complete a national security / terrorism investigative course. This training program provides knowledge and training in conducting surveillance, information collection, document analysis, investigative techniques, terrorism and counter terrorism investigation, and strategic planning. In order to qualify for this national security / terrorism investigative training program, private investigators must meet a certain criteria. One of the most important prerequisites is completing a state approved national security / terrorism investigative course.
Private investigators may also specialize in different areas of investigation. While many investigators choose to specialize in either criminal law enforcement or surveillance, there are those who prefer to conduct both types of investigations. Specialization can lead to increased opportunities and greater earning potential. Other individuals choose to specialize in criminal background checks, telephone investigations, research on missing persons, and intellectual property theft among other areas.
There are many advantages to becoming a private investigator. For instance, private investigators are able to legally serve in the courts, carry out surveillance, and gather information in many instances that are not possible to achieve for any other type of employee. This legal position allows private investigators to build strong working relationships with law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, and other businesses. Obtaining a law enforcement intelligence career as a private investigator can help you become a well-trained, efficient investigator, able to provide services in an expedient fashion.