Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sometimes you get them, and sometimes you don't

Being a private investigator is challenging, the profession can really show you what you are made of. When you do well, its a feeling of euphoria that is almost unexplainable.  When you do poorly, it is a cold smack in the face that will stay with you. Like anything else, you learn from your winnings and your losses.

My losses and lessons:

Morrow Detective Agency was retained to locate an individual for the purpose of serving papers on them. We were told that other agencies had been unable to find the subject and in doing so had quit and given the assignment back. We were provided two weeks to locate the subject and get him served. We went out to the last known address of the subject and were stopped by security, after advising security about our right to enter into a residential area for the purpose of performing a service of process security allowed our us to enter the property with a guard as an escort ( as if this was not challenging already). We attempted a door knock and received no response, upon departing the residence we noted that the residence did not appear to have any lights on. The security guard checked his database for us and advised that he did not see our subject on there list of residents. We went back to our offices and found no new addresses, we sent a letter to the post offices and they had no forwarding address on file.....what is a investigator to do now. Through investigative means, we were able to get a good address on the subject, now three days out of the fourteen have lapsed. In the interim we were able to monitor the subjects social networking and had found that he has been abroad and frequently leaves the country. On Easter morning we attempted to serve the subject at his residence but received no response, we came back the following Monday evening and again attempted the service, we noted that there were dogs within the residence, and the mail that was observed in the mailbox on Sunday had been retrieved. So obviously someone has been coming and going to take care of the dogs and make sure that the junk-mail/bills were being taken care of. We attempted to come back to the subjects residence multiple times and days, we learned from a neighbor that the subject sometimes came home late at night, we stayed late into the evening and came back early in the morning, no success. We ended up having to the let the assignment go due to the fact that we were not able to find the right time to get this guy. Fast forward weeks later and we found out that the subject has a new girlfriend and had been staying at her residence for the most part. The lesson learned from this case is you can do everything right and you still cannot predict the outcome, anything short of pitching a tent on the lawn of the apartment complex would not have made a difference in this case...the client certainly did not want to pay that much money for us to do that.

Another case that was a loss took place in Corona, California early on in my career, I was working for a nationwide investigation company who will remain nameless. The assignment was to conduct surveillance on a certain individual for the purpose of observing whether he was conducting workers compensation fraud. This company had a policy of making door contact to confirm the person was home ( I found out later that it is illegal to make direct contact with any claimant that is represented) an hour and a half into the surveillance I knock on the door and though I hear sounds of life in the house I don't get a response, on the way out I stop at a neighbors house and ask questions. The neighbor eyes me suspiciously and answers. I walk back to my surveillance vehicle and go back to doing what needs to be done, waiting. The neighbor leaves her house for work and drives by where I am set up, she drives very slowly and I notice that she is looking at my vehicle, I knew she could not see me due to the limo tint on my vehicle but that did not mean that she did not see where I had went to after leaving her house. The neighbor drives off. About five minutes later my claimant exits his residence, he jumps into a black Honda and leaves his residence, I give him some space and follow, while following him we pass his neighbor coming back, next thing I know my claimant is on his phone. He makes a u-turn and me being inexperienced at the time, I follow. He goes back home and I park further away but still in an area where I can observe him. A few minutes pass by and my claimant emerges on foot, he walks towards my vehicle and behind him comes his neighbor. My doors are locked but he try's to open my driver's side door, he grabs a screwdriver and continues to try to get in my vehicle, the whole time he is screaming get out mother f&^ker I know you are in there, I am tired of you people following me this is the third time this month and I am going to make sure it is the last. As a rule you don't break off of a surveillance unless your claimant is in for the day, you definitely do not do it if the case is getting heated, but this situation is definitely past heated, I am burned. I hit the panic button on my alarm pad to make the car go off, at this time other neighbors are coming out of their houses, I don't respond, I don't even move. Luckily I had already called in a code 5 to local law enforcement, a neighbor called the police and the police were nice enough to call me, I answered whispering that I was still in the area but my claimant was on to me and now was trying to get into my vehicle. The police send a cruiser out and I advise the operator that I am going to depart as soon as the cruiser comes. A unit shows up and I depart the area, I called my supervisor and he asked if I could rent a car and go back the same day. I declined. It is stupid to work a case that fired up again on the same day especially when the claimant/subject knows that you are watching them.  Lessons learned from this incident: know the assignment beforehand, know if it has been worked, if the case has ever been heated or burned. I later learned that this claimant had burned two other investigators a couple of weeks before I worked the case. This case should have been allowed to cool down, I also learned that the vantage points where I parked were where the other investigators had parked, had I of known I would not have parked anywhere near there. I also learned to give a loose tail on subjects that are wary, it is better to lose a subject then heat up or burn a case. Once someone has been followed and knows about it, their head is constantly going to be on a swivel.


I once had to conduct surveillance on someone that had burned other investigators and was extremely wary. The client just needed to know where this guy was working. On cases like these you either use other investigators so you can play leap frog on the guy, but most clients don't have the budget for a lot of investigators on a surveillance so then it is time to become creative. I set up on day one far away from the subjects residence and not to long after his vehicle is observed departing the area. I follow the subject for a short while and break off surveillance. The following day instead of setting up surveillance at his residence, I picked it up where I left off. Sure enough my subject shows up and I follow him again for a short while. The next day I picked up right where I left off and this day I follow him all the way to his job. It took more time than usual, but in the end the job got done.

I had another case where it was a workers compensation fraud case. The claimant was wary and had been investigated for years and had burned other investigators. My first day of surveillance the claimant departed his residence and he drove and drove, I noticed that he did not seem to be driving anywhere in particular, I immediately broke off surveillance for the day before the case got heated. The next day I came back out and noted that the claimant departed at the same time and guess what he drove what appeared to be the same route, I took a chance and headed back to his residence, ten minutes later the claimant showed up, he went into his residence and came out in work clothes. The claimant departed the area and I followed him to a work site where he used a jackhammer on concrete sidewalks. The video obtained for that day caused the claimant to lose his workers compensation case. This also was the first time that I had ever seen a claimant or subject do a burn run.

Obviously we want more wins then losses but the value in losses can prove to be more valuable than in winning. Through trial and error we have been able to come up with some creative approaches to our cases. Some approaches give set backs while others thrust you into success. In order to do well as an investigator you have to adjust to what the case needs and work with whatever changes come your way.

Morrow Detective Agency is a licensed private investigation firm located on the border of Ventura and Los Angeles, Ca in Simi Valley, CA. Morrow Detective Agency is capable of performing surveillance, process service, locates, background investigations, asset investigations, and more. Please feel free to visit our website at  or give us a call at (805) 823-3540 and allow us to make your problem our solution!


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