History of the Private Investigator
In 1833 Eugène François Vidocq, a French soldier, criminal and privateer, founded the
first known private detective agency, "Le Bureau des Renseignements Universels pour
le commerce et l'Industrie"("The Office of Universal Information For Commerce and
Industry") and hired ex-convicts. Official law enforcement tried many times to shut it
down. In 1842 police arrested him in suspicion of unlawful imprisonment and taking
money on false pretences after he had solved an embezzlement case. Vidocq later
suspected that it had been a set-up. He was sentenced for five years with a 3,000-franc
fine but the Court of Appeals released him. Vidocq is credited with having introduced
record-keeping, criminology and ballistics to criminal investigation. He made the first
plaster casts of shoe impressions. He created indelible ink and unalterable bond paper
with his printing company. His form of anthropometrics is still partially used by French
police. He is also credited for philanthropic pursuits – he claimed he never informed on
anyone who had stolen for real need.
After Vidocq, the industry was born. Much of what private investigators did in the early
days was to act as the police in matters that their clients felt the police were not
equipped for or willing to do. A larger role for this new private investigative industry was to
assist companies in labour disputes. Some early private investigators provided armed
guards to act as a private militia.
In the United Kingdom, Charles Frederick Field set up an enquiry office upon his
retirement from the Metropolitan Police in 1852. Field became a friend of Charles
Dickens and the latter wrote articles about him. In 1862 one of his employees, the
Hungarian, Ignatius Paul Pollaky, left him and set up a rival agency. Although little
remembered today, Pollaky's fame at the time was such that he was mentioned in
various books of the 1870s and immortalized as "Paddington" Pollaky for his "keen
penetration" in the 1881 comic opera, Patience.
In the U.S., the Pinkerton National Detective Agency was a private detective agency
established in 1850 by Allan Pinkerton. Pinkerton had become famous when he foiled a
plot to assassinate then President-Elect Abraham Lincoln. Pinkerton's agents performed
services which ranged from undercover investigations and detection of crimes to plant
protection and armed security. It is sometimes claimed, probably with exaggeration, that
at the height of its existence the Pinkerton National Detective Agency employed more
agents than the United States Army.
During the union unrest in the US in the late 19th century, companies sometimes hired
operatives and armed guards from the Pinkertons and similar agencies to keep strikers
and suspected unionists out of their factories. The most famous example of this was the
Homestead Strike of 1892, when industrialist Henry Clay Frick hired a large contingent of
Pinkerton men to regain possession of Andrew Carnegie's steel mill during a lock-out at
Homestead, Pennsylvania. Gunfire erupted between the strikers and the Pinkertons,
resulting in multiple casualties and deaths on both sides. Several days later a radical
anarchist, Alexander Berkman, attempted to assassinate Frick. In the aftermath of the
Homestead Riot, several states passed so-called "anti-Pinkerton" laws restricting the
importation of private security guards during union strikes. The federal Anti-Pinkerton Act
of 1893 continues to prohibit an "individual employed by the Pinkerton Detective Agency,
or similar organization" from being employed by "the Government of the United States or
the government of the District of Columbia."
Pinkerton agents were also hired to track western outlaws Jesse James, the Reno
brothers, and the Wild Bunch, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The
Pinkerton agency's logo, an eye embellished with the words "We Never Sleep," inspired
the term "private eye."
It was not until the prosperity of the 1920s that the private investigator became a person
accessible to the average American. With the wealth of the 1920s and the expanding of
the middle class came the need of middle America for private investigators.
Since then the private detective industry has grown with the changing needs of the
public. Social issues like infidelity and unionization have impacted the industry and
created new types of work, as has the need for insurance and, with it, insurance fraud,
criminal defence investigations and the invention of low-cost listening devices. In a
number of countries, a licensing process has been introduced that has put criteria in
place that investigators have to meet: in most cases, a clean criminal record. This has
combined with modern business practices that have ensured that most investigators are
now professional in outlook, rather than seeing the PI world as a second career
opportunity for retired policemen.
A private investigator (often
abbreviated to PI and informally
spelled private eye), private
detective or inquiry agent, is a
person who can be hired by
individuals or groups to
undertake investigatory law
work for attorneys in civil cases.
Many work for insurance
companies to 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. Private
investigators can also be used to
perform due diligence for an
investor who may be
considering investing money
with a 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 and the
hundreds of others reported by
the SEC and other law
Many jurisdictions require PI's to be licensed, and they may or may not carry firearms depending on local laws. Some are
ex-police officers, some are former law enforcement agents, some are ex-spies and some are ex-military, some used to
work in a private military company, some are former bodyguards and security guards, although many are not. While PI's
may investigate criminal matters, most do not have police powers, and as such they cannot arrest or detain suspects.
They are expected to keep detailed notes and to be prepared to testify in court regarding any of their observations on
behalf of their clients. Great care is required to remain within the scope of the law, otherwise the investigator may face
criminal charges. Irregular hours may also be required when performing surveillance work.
PI's 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 PI's 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. Others may
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). Other PI's, also known as Corporate Investigators, specialise in corporate matters,
including anti-fraud work, the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets, anti-piracy, copyright infringement
investigations, due diligence investigations and computer forensics work.
Increasingly, modern PI's prefer to be known as "professional investigators" or Licensed Private Investigators (LPI's)
rather than "private investigators" or "private detectives". This is a response to the image that is sometimes attributed to
the profession and an effort to establish and demonstrate the industry to be a proper and respectable profession.
CS Investigative Services Inc.
|CS Investigative Services, Inc.
8628 Utica Ave, Suite 700 - Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
Main - 909-493-1555 / Fax - 909-931-4009
Bureau of Security and Investigative Services License Number: PI Lic # 27668