Questions and Answers from Long Island Private Investigator
We know many of the questions potential clients ask. We want to clear misconceptions and better explain the job. We do video surveillance on people from all walks of life and in all places.
Is it legal?
* In most cases, yes. The phrase that comes up is: reasonable expectation of privacy. A person in a public place, say a parking lot or on the street, has no expectation of privacy. However, someone in their own house or apartment, living room, back yard or bathroom, does have an expectation of privacy.
* We will not take cases where a potential client has a restraining order or court order against them from the target.
* We only record audio when it involves the Investigator and one other person. In New York State, there is a “1 Party Law”, where only one person has to be aware in the conversation of two individuals. It is illegal to place an audio recording device in any setting to record conversations, unless you have a legal warrant to do so, which a private investigator does not have the power to obtain, only law enforcement does.
What information do you need to get started?
We need detailed vehicle information, subject photo or description and information about where to start the surveillance. After a retainer agreement is signed and the retainer fee paid, (Minimum 4 Hours Fee), We are ready to start your case. Vehicle information is crucial, especially a license plate and whether the vehicle has any noticeable decals or markings on it.
A photo of the subject, perhaps one business and one casual, helps us to confirm that we have the right person. Like a vehicle, people have certain “identifiers.” What makes him or her unique or how can we pick them out of a crowd? Accent, preferred jewelry, walking style, physical characteristics and clothing and outer-garments are all good to know. Are they apt to use public transportation, a motorcycle or be on foot?
Surveillance may be more difficult in certain areas. Private, gated communities, private company parking lots, large buildings with multiple exits and entrances, etc. each bring complications to a surveillance.
Sometimes, our operatives will scout out an area in advance to assess the likelihood of a successful surveillance.
If known, we also like to know the places a subject is likely to frequent. Do they have friends or relatives they might visit or do they go to a gym or to certain bars and restaurants? This information helps us to prepare.
How long does it take?
Depends. We are dealing with human behavior and therefore each case is different. We have a set number of hours in the retainer agreement and do not exceed the amount without client approval.
Surveillance can be a bit like fishing or hunting. You might not catch the big fish on your first trip to the lake but if you keep going and know the spots, you increase your chances of success. We have had several infidelity cases where we caught the subject on the first day but many others where it took three, four or five outings to obtain the video proof.
There is a learning curve in each case. We like to get familiar with our subject. The worst thing to do on a case is be overly aggressive in the beginning and risk being detected. We try to avoid conducting surveillance on someone’s residence with no signs of activity. Usually, if there is no movement within a couple hours we will stop and try another day.
Why should I pay for more than one investigator?
There are several reasons, and each one has to do with increasing the likelihood of a successful investigation.
In a crowded area such as the five Burroughs of New York City, vehicle surveillance can be difficult. We usually don’t have the luxury of following a car from a distance. If you give too much room, the investigator may lose visual of the subject in traffic by going through a yellow light or by making a turn into the flow of traffic. Sometimes a subject pulls into a parking space and exits on foot before an operative can find parking or follow.
Using an extra investigator gives flexibility and coverage in many situations. If a subject is on foot, it’s good to have one investigator on foot and another in a car in case the subject gets on a bus or a taxi. Many buildings have multiple exits and entrances, not just in parking lots but at the building. Sometimes the more eyes the better for not losing sight of someone.
An extra investigator allows for rotation of personnel and surveillance vehicles, which decreases the chances of detection. There are few things better on a surveillance than a male-female team. People/Neighbors can get suspicious seeing a lone male in a car but rarely think twice about seeing a man and woman together.
Do you use GPS TRACKING on a person’s vehicle?
This is a legal gray area. In New York State, you must have the owner’s consent to use a GPS device on a vehicle. It is a Criminal Offense to put GPS on a vehicle where the person is not a registered owner. We have used a GPS device in domestic investigations where the vehicle was jointly owned, but the client must prove his or her name is on the registration and title.
A GPS device is a short-cut. Sometimes it’s useful and other times it’s not. A GPS does not provide any context. It just tells you where the vehicle is but does not say what the driver is doing. With a GPS you also have issues of signal strength, battery power, etc. GPS tends not to work well in places such as large concrete parking structures.
How do you it?
In general, the challenge is to get on the subject outside of his or her known areas where detection is less likely. Sitting in a car right outside the person’s house is about the worst thing we can do. The mission is to blend and to be discrete. If we can get the subject out to a main road without detection we are in good shape.
Sometimes, we alert local police to let them know we are in a certain area for a lawful investigation. We do not however disclose to police who we have under surveillance. We do this in case a neighbor sees us and calls police. We are contacting them in advance so they do not show up and alert the neighborhood to our presence.
Do you ever lose people?
Unfortunately, yes. Any investigator who tells you they never lose people is a liar. With good habits and discipline, the risk of losing a subject under surveillance is greatly decreased. Vehicle surveillance presents challenges, especially with traffic lights or heavy traffic and instances beyond our control. We never want to be a risk to the public or ourselves in running a red light or in our driving. Sometimes, safety decisions trump the immediate job of a surveillance.
When we do lose a subject, which is rare, we set back up at a place where we will most likely see the subject again and continue the investigation.
Do you ever get detected or “Made”?
It has happened a few times in the last decade, but it is rare. “Being made” might occur when investigator has maybe stayed on the subject for too long in certain circumstances. It has also occurred when the subject is already watchful or engaged in illegal behavior or is constantly aware of their surroundings for other reasons.
Can you get video at night or inside places?
Night or low light creates some challenges. Cameras generally take good video so long as a little bit of light is available. We carry hand-held covert cameras to take video in places such as bars and restaurants.
How do you get good results?
Planning, patience and commitment. When a client commits to us we commit to them. Any good investigation is a product of time, money and diligence.
We either do the work ourselves or supplement our team with other licensed, experienced and insured private detectives.
” Employment of a Private Investigator “
A handful of skilled private detectives/investigators work with defense attorneys on capital punishment and other criminal defense cases. Many are insurance investigators who investigate suspicious claims. Before the advent of no-fault divorce, many private investigators were hired to search out evidence of adultery or other conduct within marriage to establish grounds for a divorce. Despite the lack of legal necessity for such evidence in many jurisdictions, according to press reports collecting evidence of adultery or other “bad behaviour” by spouses and partners is still one of the most profitable activities investigators undertake, as the stakes being fought over now are child custody, alimony, or marital property disputes.
Most jurisdictions require a clean criminal record at the licensing application entry point. When a board of directors exists, it will review an applicant’s appeal to determine whether the board can approve the application based on the elapsed amount of time since the last offence was recorded. The board of appeal may approve an application based on good conduct within the last five to ten years.
Private investigators can also be used to perform due diligence for an investor who may be considering investing money with an investment group, fund manager or other high-risk business or investment venture. This could serve to help the prospective investor avoid being the victim of a fraud or Ponzi scheme. By hiring a licensed and experienced investigator, they could unearth information that the investment is risky and or that the investor has suspicious red flags in his or her background. This is called investigative due diligence, and is becoming much more prevalent in the 21st century with the public reports of large-scale Ponzi schemes and fraudulent investment vehicles such as Madoff, Stanford, Petters, Rothstein and the hundreds of others reported by the SEC and other law-enforcement agencies.
” Responsibilities of a Private Investigator “
PIs also engage in a large variety of work that is not usually associated with the industry in the mind of the public. For example, many PIs are involved in process serving, the personal delivery of summons, subpoenas and other legal documents to parties in a legal case. The tracing of absconding debtors can also form a large part of a PI’s work load. Many agencies specialize in a particular field of expertise. For example, some PI agencies deal only in tracing. There are a handful of firms that specialize in technical surveillance counter-measures (TSCM), sometimes called electronic counter measures (ECM), which is the locating and dealing with unwanted forms of electronic surveillance (for example, a bugged boardroom for industrial espionage purposes); This type of niche service is typically conducted by those with backgrounds in intelligence/counterintelligence, executive protection, and a small number from law enforcement entities whose duties included the covert installation of eavesdropping devices as a tool in organized crime, terrorism and narco-trafficking investigations. The best known of these firms in the U.S. include Granite Island Group, Confidential Research & Investigations LLC, Murray & Associates, and TSCM/Special Operations Group Inc. Other PIs, also known as Corporate Investigators, specialize in corporate matters, including anti-fraud work, loss prevention, internal investigations of employee misconduct (such as EEO violations and sexual harassment), the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets, anti-piracy, copyright infringement investigations, due diligence investigations and computer forensics work. Some PIs act as professional witnesses where they observe situations with a view to reporting the actions or lack of them to a court or to gather evidence in anti-social behavior
An undercover investigator, undercover detective, or undercover agent is a person who conducts investigations of suspected or confirmed criminal activity while impersonating a disinterested third party. Undercover investigators often infiltrate a suspected insurgent group, posing as a person interested in purchasing illegal goods or services with the ultimate aim of obtaining information about their assigned target.
Many undercover investigators carry hidden cameras and recorders strapped to their bodies to help them document their investigations. The period of the investigation could last for several months or, in some extreme cases, years. Due to the dangerous nature of the job, their real identities are kept secret throughout their active careers. Economic investigations, business intelligence and information on competitors, security advice, special security services information, criminal investigation, investigations background and profile polygraph tests, are all typical examples of such a role.