Private Detectives: Not Just For Suspicious Spouses…

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One of the most recognisable private detectives of all times is the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. However, the work of the private detective is far from fictional and can make a huge difference to the lives of the people who hire them. Private detectives, also known as private investigators, private eyes, or inquiry agents, work for a wide range of clients investigating everything from lost pets to supporting the work of attorneys. The role of private detective agencies has changed over time, as have the rules and laws that govern what they are able to do and how any evidence they unearth can be used.

Short History Of The Private Detective Agency

The first recorded private detective agency was founded in 1833, by a French soldier, Eugene Francois Vidocq. The agency ‘The Office of Universal Information for Commerce and Industry’ was not universally popular, especially with the official police force of the time. One of the reasons for this was its policy of hiring ex-convicts. Despite this, Vidocq would go on to be credited with introducing criminology, ballistics, and record keeping, into criminal investigation.

The roles of the early private detective were as diverse as the people the job attracted. As well as investigating criminals they were involved in assisting companies with labour disputes and even acted as armed guards. In the United States, the first agency was set up by Allan Pinkerton. Among his achievements were foiling a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln in 1861, while he was President-Elect, and hiring the first female private detective, Kate Warne, in 1856.  The United Kingdom followed quickly behind Pinkerton with the first agency being set up by Charles Frederick Field, a former Metropolitan Police Officer, in 1852.

Early private detectives relied heavily on following suspects, questioning individuals for information and even entering premises without permission to find evidence. The rise in digital technology allows modern private investigator agencies to work at a distance and monitor phone calls, emails and other web traffic in order to gather evidence.

Who Might Use A Detective Agency

The common image of someone who might hire a private detective usually involves a husband, or wife, wanting to know whether their partner is cheating on them and with whom. However, while this is certainly part of the work of a private detective, it is not the only role they play, or the only type of client for whom they work. A wide range of individuals, including business owners, use detective agencies for a broad variety of reasons.

A detective agency may be asked by legal offices or corporations to take part in fact-finding missions. Insurance companies will often employ the services of an investigator to undertake surveillance if they believe an individual has made a fraudulent or misleading insurance claim.

Larger companies, particularly those dealing with high profile clients, or operating within the financial sector, may take on the services of a detective to run background checks on new staff, or even new clients, particularly if they have already used a source like Name Search Ninja and they have suspicions or if the source of large amounts of money is unclear and potentially illegal.

Individuals as well as companies hire private detectives for their ability to find information and people. One area where private detectives often work is missing persons. Initially, the police handle missing persons cases, but due to finite resources the work is often taken over by a private investigator at the behest of the family.


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