A private investigator has so many roles that it would be an immense task to list them all in this document. The SIA (Security Industry Agency) published a paper on this subject (SIA Research: Private Investigator Best Practice) in an effort to define the roles of a Private Investigator.
SIA research identified that there were a set of six activities around which investigations, regardless of context or complexity, were based. These activities were:
- Implement Investigations.
- Interview Witnesses.
- Interview Suspects.
- Search for Information and Evidence.
- Carry out Basic Surveillance.
- Laws, Standards and Regulations
The main roles however are as follows;
Process Servers: The bread and butter of most agencies is process serving which is the serving of legal documents on behalf of the courts and or claimants. The recipients usually do not want to be served and tend to try and evade being served by the process server. Generally speaking, it’s impossible to evade being served in the UK. The client is almost always a Solicitor acting on behalf of their client.
Corporate Investigators: This is a specialised field that is often beyond most private investigators reach. A Corporate Investigator is an individual who has to have had experience in the corporate jungle in order to talk the client’s language. There are many different types of investigations that need to be conducted on behalf of a corporate client including, internal theft, theft of information, fraud, bank fraud, etc.
Asset Tracers: Asset Traces are used to reveal the financial profile of an individual or business. The asset search can be useful in matters involving litigation and in general business law. There are several levels of the asset search, from basic search of public records to very thorough “deep” asset investigations. Asset Investigations are usually in-depth & consist of methods such as Database Interrogation and Surveillance etc.
People Tracers: Many private investigators specialise in finding people. This used to be carried out by a lot of “legwork”. In the 21st century, however access to the internet has meant that 80-90% of tracing is accomplished without leaving the PI’s desk. We are asked to find people for many different reasons including, finding debtors, finding people who someone needs to serve process on, finding missing people, finding long lost relatives. In most of these cases, it is important that the private investigator takes care not to be used by the client as a “stalker”!
Surveillance Operatives: Some Private Investigators are hired to search for evidence of adultery or other conduct within a marriage to establish grounds for divorce or child custody. Within the Private Investigation Industry nationwide adultery or other “socially unacceptable behaviour” by spouses and partners is one of the most profitable activities investigators undertake.
Professional Witnesses: A Professional Witness is a neutral person, who would work with a body to investigate potential crime and disorder and other areas of potential difficulty. The role of the Professional Witness is to try to obtain photographic or video evidence to be passed to the agency or Court process as required. Professional Witnesses are extremely well trained surveillance investigators, who have an understanding of the Law and who can blend into the modern urban environment, they understand street situations and what to look for, and they have the ability to communicate at all levels and are open minded for all situations.
Insurance Fraud Investigators: Private Investigators carry out motor theft, finance fraud claim investigations and accident claim investigations for insurance, finance companies and the legal industry. The investigative process can take many forms of approach, including interviewing witnesses, talking to neighbours, taking photographic evidence or undertaking a period of surveillance.
We can see therefore that a private investigator is a person who can do many different tasks to a standard not normally found in other industries.
We have access to a variety of sources of information; client’s instructions, people that we question, the internet, databases, the public library, CCTV to name just a few.
Today, with the advance of the internet into every part of our lives, the role of the private investigator has been changing and those PI’s who can’t or won’t change will be left behind.
Our access to the internet gives us the power to intrude into people’s private lives and it is for that reason that we need to demonstrate our professionalism to the public.
I am proud to say that I am a 21st century Private Investigator.