WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
Before hiring a Private Investigator consider what you want to accomplish.
Often, searchers have become adept detectives in their own right, only needing assistance with lead follow-up or guidance on how to proceed with the information they already have. C.C.I.S. has from time to time recommended to clients that the services of a private investigations company is not needed and has shown clients how to research their cases themselves.
What most searchers usually lack of education on how to identify professional database services that help to track targets. Knowledge of how an investigator conducts research may be of assistance on an investigation which will help the searcher define and estimate the type and cost of services.
THE INTAKE PROCESS
Expect the Private Investigator to conduct a lengthy, in-depth interview that may take from one to two hours or more. This crucial function is mandatory and contributes to the successful outcome in any investigation. Expect the investigator to take extensive notes and to be organized in information gathering. Understand that the investigator is assimilating an immense amount of information for the first time, and may review the same information several times to gain a comprehensive picture of the situation.
Expect to discuss the cost of services and associated expenses in conducting investigations. From time to time C.C.I.S., like other agencies, will require a non-refundable retainer to accept the case. Sometimes we may charge an hourly consultation fee to conduct an assessment and to determine if we are able to assist. You will always be advised of our fee structure for your case before being accessed any fees.
Ask the investigator to verbalize a plan of action based on the information provided.
Discuss your budget and review the terms of the agency's contract. Obtain answers to questions about qualifications and experience.
If after the Intake Process you are comfortable with the investigation firms qualifications, experience, and you are in agreement with the fees, contract terms and specified plan of action (preferably in writing)-- advise the investigator that you want to verify background information and references before entering into a business arrangement. Sleep on it. Obtain a second offer of service. Do not feel pressured into entering into a business contract without doing your homework.
Remember:"Caveat Emptor" (Buyer Beware!).
Protect your rights as a Consumer.
Most agencies charge by the hour. Hourly rates across the nation range from $40 to over $125 dollars per hour. C.C.I.S. charges $100.00 per hour for its services.
Many investigations are resolved in short order however some can take upwards of hundreds of hours or perhaps years to resolve. In addition to the hourly rate, investigative agencies charge (not unlike attorneys) for associated expenses. Administrative, travel, lodging, phone calls, faxes, meals, database searches are just a few of the types of expenses that can be incurred in the course of an investigation.
This is why we encourage searchers to be specific in their contract arrangement with a professional investigator. Ethical investigators will help their clients work within their budget, and strive to be cost-effective in conducting their investigations. Reputable investigators want to be successful at their jobs, as it serves to enhance their good reputations within the community and hopefully results in referrals for their business.
Expect to be provided with an invoice reflecting charges for expenses and hourly fees from C.C.I.S. Clients have the right to know how their money was spent. Private Investigators know that these investigative fees may be recoverable from the offending party in a civil suit and need to be documented.
It has been our experience that the pace of any investigation can accelerate in a short course of time. Hot on the trail of a surveillance target, child abductor or obscure bit of information, an investigator can become akin to a military commander coordinating his troops -- because this is war! Documenting every detail of the investigation is a difficult but necessary task.
It has been our experience that the success of any investigation hinges on the delicate balance between control of information, integrity of that information, subsequent follow-up of leads, and of course, timing.
There are three main areas of investigative technique that are employed in any successful investigation.
Based on the information provided, the investigator will begin to systematically eliminate non-productive leads that produce negative results. This may take the form of interviews, surveillance and database searches.
INDEPENDENT LEAD GENERATION
During the course of authenticating client-provided leads, independent leads may be generated and subsequently followed-up taking the form of interviews, surveillance and database searches.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, surveillance in the area of where a tip or lead was generated will need to be conducted. This is one of the more expensive aspects of an investigation. There should be good cause for surveillance, as this tactic should only occur when there is a solid lead to pursue. All parties should agree before surveillance is undertaken. A limit on time and expenses should be established.
A private investigator may find it necessary to use media resources at some point in the investigation. This tactic should be approached with caution, and all parties (including law enforcement) should agree before employing this strategy depending on the type of investigation being conducted. Juvenile Runaway cases, for example, often benefit the most from media exposure, prompting tips and leads in a particular location. However, in cases where an adult has abducted a child, judicious use of the media is advised. Careless use of the media may only serve to drive an abductor further underground.
Hopefully, your case will be closed successfully and to your complete satisfaction. This is always our desire and goal. Please be aware that C.C.I.S. will never continue an investigation when it appears in our estimate that no further investigation is warranted or productive. We do have a policy of leaving any unresolved case open for five years in our active file, pending new leads or other information. To date, we have one such case in our files. All others have been resolved to the satisfaction of our clients.