Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Infidelity & Cheating Spouse Surveillance

You "just want to know" what is going on behind your back

Few events in life are more painful or complex than the issues surrounding a troubled relationship.

• Affairs
• Unconfirmed Suspicions
• Conflict, Lying
• Deception
• Midlife Transition


If you are experiencing uncertainty, doubt or a sense of betrayal, contact us to privately discuss your particular situation. Understanding the problem is the first step toward solving it. We can help you toward a solution as you gain factual information vital to making the correct decisions.


• Photographs, Video
• Identity
• Background Investigation
• Child Protection, Child Custody


Ten Signs Your Partner Is Cheating On You

1. Changing attitude toward your relationship: more argumentative, critical, distant, less affectionate, increased need for “space.”

2. Unexplained absences: frequently staying late at work, spending more time "with friends," pursuing a new hobby during evenings and weekends, frequently running lengthy errands.

3. Increase in personal expenses: spends more money, credit card spending increases.

4. Changing phone use patterns: spends more time on the phone, anxious to be the first to answer the phone, mysterious incoming calls — hang ups or "wrong numbers," suddenly needs a new cell phone.

5. Greater attention to personal appearance: begins a crash diet or exercise program, gets a trendy new wardrobe, new fragrance or hair style.

6. Added interest in the mail: wants to be the one who gets the mail — wants to limit your access to phone bills, bank and credit card statements, and personal letters they get.

7. Articles of unknown origin: slips of paper with names and phone numbers; dates, times, locations stashed in their pockets; matchbooks from unknown bars and restaurants.

8. Changing sex drive: decreased interest in sex — more aggressive and/or hostile during sex and less tender/romantic; newfound knowledge regarding unexplored techniques or positions.

9. Mysterious bite marks, bruises, scratches: can't explain how "that got there.”

10. Unexplained odor or stain: comes home smelling of cologne / perfume that is clearly not theirs; lipstick on his shirt collar.



Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Infidelity & Cheating Spouse Investigations

Many private investigators don't set out intending to perform infidelity investigations, but often it inevitably happens. All private investigators at one time or another receive calls to perform infidelity investigations. Even if private investigators don't offer infidelity and cheating spouse investigations, they receive calls to perform such work. It just happens. Some private investigators decline to do such work, but most say yes. Since there are periods of time when a private investigator doesn't have at least one client, it can be foolish to turn down the money.

Those seeking divorce will often hire a private investigator to perform surveillance on their spouse not just if they suspect he or she may be cheating, but also when they suspect he or she may be leading a double life. People leading a double life occurs more often than you may think.

Even though adultery isn't a reason needed to file for divorce anymore in most states because of 'no fault' divorce laws, the spouse of a suspected cheater will often still hire a private investigator to investigate whether or not their spouse is cheating. They want to know if their suspicions are true.

Few events in life are more painful or complex than the issues surrounding a troubled relationship

• Affairs
• Unconfirmed Suspicions
• Conflict, Lying
• Deception
• Midlife Transition


If you are experiencing uncertainty, doubt or a sense of betrayal, contact us to privately discuss your particular situation. Understanding the problem is the first step toward solving it. We can help you toward a solution as you gain factual information vital to making the correct decisions.

There are other reasons to hire a private investigator to perform surveillance that are closely related to infidelity and cheating spouse investigations such as abuse cases and child custody cases. Family law cases often require an investigator to perform surveillance involving suspected child abuse or neglect and abuse of the elderly. Sadly, sometimes our loved ones become victims of abuse.

Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA

Friday, October 3, 2014

Security Tips

Family Security

Family is at the center of most anyone's universe. Most people would do almost anything for their family, including protecting them from known dangers and harm. Protecting your family becomes increasingly difficult because we live in an open society where we share the same public places as criminals. The only place where we really have any control over our environment is in our home.


Whenever a family member leaves the home, they leave the zone of protection you have created. You should develop a good family security plan to keep your family members reasonably safe once they leave the home. To properly create a family security plan, you must first examine the public routines of each family member and then develop the actions necessary that can protect them from criminals.

A smart way to begin creating a proper family security plan is to talk about different "what if" scenarios with each family member. For example: if this happens, what will I do? When developing a family security plan, you should create safety precautions and protective measures to employ when you use the ATM machine, shop at the mall or walking to your automobile on the street at night should anyone attempt to assault or rob you.

Sidebar: in many cases, the victim is still murdered even though they do precisely what the perpetrator says. Doing exactly what they say doesn't ensure your safety or survival. You may want to develop defensive tactics and prepare to fight back if ever in a deadly situation. Fight for your life!

Security at Shopping Centers and Malls

Even though shopping centers and malls come in different sizes, the one thing they all have in common is a parking lot. You are at greatest risk in parking lots. Criminals can more easily blend in with the rest of us in parking lots. Criminal predators can easily walk by us in parking lots without us knowing it because of the public setting. 

Many shoppers walk to and from their vehicle not aware of the dangers around them because they are consumed by their thoughts. Many crimes at shopping centers and malls occur when shoppers are distracted by fumbling for their car keys and putting shopping bags or children into their vehicle, taking attention away from anyone nearby. You should always have your car key out and ready to unlock your vehicle so you can quickly enter and secure yourself inside your vehicle. You should always think about your safety.

The best defense is awareness. Awareness can allow you to plan ahead and anticipate dangerous situations that might occur. Good planning including selecting safe times to shop and making arrangements not to shop alone if at all possible, and where to park your automobile. Of course, the safest time to shop is during daylight hours, and the best place to park is in high traffic areas and not next to large automobiles.

Visually scan the parking lot for suspicious people before parking and exiting your vehicle and when walking to your vehicle after shopping. You should always enter and exit your automobile quickly and immediately secure your automobile. Look around the area where your automobile is parked before approaching it and retreat inside a store if anyone suspicious is loitering in the area.

  • Be alert to predators in the parking lot
  • Plan when to go and where to park
  • Never get out of your automobile if it isn't safe to do
  • Scan the area around your vehicle as you approach it
  • Enter and exit your automobile quickly and lock the doors
  • Retreat inside a store if anyone looks or acts suspicious


Home Security

Protecting your home and family from criminal intrusion should be high on your list of priorities. The most common threat to anyone's home is burglary. According to the FBI, a burglary occurs every 15 minutes somewhere in the United States.

Burglary isn't always a non-confrontational crime. Sometimes, burglars are caught in the act and attack the person who caught them. Becoming a victim of burglary can be devastating, leaving a person feeling vulnerable and violated. The majority of house and apartment burglaries occur during the daytime when people are at work or school.

Burglaries are normally committed by young males, less than 25 years old, looking for items that are small, expensive and can be easily converted into cash. The favorite items for burglars are cash, jewelry, small electronic devices, and firearms.

Burglars prefer to gain access to a dwelling through an unlocked door or open window. However, statistics show that 70% of burglars use some amount of force to enter dwellings using ordinary household tools like screwdrivers, small pry bars and channel-lock pliers.

Although home burglaries might seem random in occurrence, they actually involve a selection process. The burglar's selection process involves choosing an unoccupied home with the easiest access, the greatest amount of cover and best escape routes.

You can minimize your risk by making your home unattractive to potential burglars. The first step is to "harden the target" - making your home difficult to enter. Burglars generally will avoid a home that requires a lot of effort to enter. The more you "harden the target" the better.

Many burglars enter a home through the back or side doors. Experienced burglars know that the garage door (when connected to the house) is usually the weakest point of entry into a house followed by the back door. Garage doors and back doors provide the most cover for burglars.

To properly secure exterior doors, use high quality Grade 1 locks to prevent twisting, prying and lock picking; use quality deadbolt lock, which has a beveled casing to inhibit the use of channel-lock pliers to shear off lock cylinder pins; use a quality door knob-in-lock set, which has a dead latch mechanism to prevent someone from slipping the lock with a shim or credit card.

  • Use a solid core or metal door for exterior doors 
  • Use a heavy duty deadbolt lock with a 1 inch throw bolt 
  • Use a knob-in-lock set with a dead-latch mechanism 
  • Use a wide-angle peephole on your front door


The weakest point on most doors is the strike plate that holds the latch or lock bolt in place. The average strike plate on a door is secured with only lightweight door frame molding and can be torn away with a firm kick.

You should upgrade to a four screw, heavy duty high security strike plate using three inch wood screws to cut deep into the door frame stud. Use long screws in the door knob lock strike plate and use two long screws in each door hinge for added strength. This will deter most door forced entries.

Because of inherently defective latch mechanisms, sliding glass doors are very vulnerable to being easily forced open from the outside. You can prevent this from happening by inserting a thick wooden dowel or thick stick into the door's track or using track blockers that can be screwed down onto the track (door stoppers.)

Since older sliding glass doors can be lifted off their track somewhat easily, you should install anti-lift devices such as a pin that extends through both the sliding and fixed portion of the door. You can find many locking and blocking devices to prevent a sliding glass door from being lifted or forced open in most any hardware store.

It is wise to place a highly visible alarm system decal and beware of dog decal on sliding glass doors near the door latch. Burglars usually avoid alarm systems and dogs for obvious reasons.

  • Place a blocking device into the track of sliding glass doors
  • Keep the latch in good working condition and properly adjusted
  • Keep rollers in good working condition and properly adjusted
  • Use anti-lift devices on sliding glass doors like through-the-door pins
  • Display visible alarm system and beware of dog decals near the latch

Windows are left unlocked or open more often than doors. An open window seen from the street might be the sole reason for your home to be selected by a burglar. Ground floor windows are susceptible to break-ins for obvious reasons. Upper floor windows become attractive to burglars if they can be accessed from a stairway, balcony, tree or fence.

You should use blocking devices on windows such as track blockers that are screwed down onto the track because windows have latches not locks. A blocking device can prevent a person from sliding the window open from the outside. Through-the-frame pins work well for vertical sliding windows and wooden dowels work well for horizontal sliding windows. It's wise not to allow the window to open more than five inches and it's critical that you make sure that no one can reach inside the window from the outside and remove the blocking device.

In sleeping rooms, window blocking devices must be capable of being easily removed from the inside for safety reasons - to escape a fire - and to comply with fire codes. Employing anti-lift devices are necessary to effectively secure ground level and aluminum windows that slide horizontally.

To prevent the window from being lifted out in the closed position, install screws half way into the upper track of the movable glass panel. As a good deterrent, put highly visible alarm system, beware of dog and other crime prevention decals on ground level window.

  • Secure all windows with blocking devices
  • Allow windows to open no more than five inches
  • Make sure no one can reach inside and remove the blocking device from outside
  • Use anti-lift devices to prevent windows from lifted out
  • Put alarm and beware of dog decals on ground level windows

Lighting

A home that is dark inside at night sends the message to burglars that you are away. Interior lighting is necessary to show signs of activity inside your residence. To deter burglars, you should use light timers. Light timers should be used when you are not at home. They click the light on and off to simulate occupancy. The same light timers can also be used to turn on radios and televisions to further enhance the illusion of occupancy. It is also comforting to enter a lit residence.

Exterior lighting is also important and becomes critical if you have to park in a common area parking lot or underground garage and need to walk to your front door. The purpose of good lighting is to allow you to see if a threat (suspicious person) is lurking in your path. If you can see a potential threat in advance, you have an opportunity to avoid it. Exterior lighting should be bright enough for you to see at least 100 feet. Good lighting is definitely a deterrent against criminals because they don't want to be seen or identified.

Another important area that should be well lit is the perimeter of your home especially at the entryway. Lighting on the front of any property should always be on a timer to establish an appearance of occupancy at all times. Using security lights with infrared motion sensors is a smart way to deter burglars. The heat motion sensor can be adjusted to detect body heat and can be programmed to reset after only one minute.

  • Use interior light timers to show occupancy
  • Exterior lighting should give you 100 feet visibility
  • Use good lighting along the pathway and at your door
  • Use light timers to automatically turn lights on and off
  • Use infrared motion censor security lights

Alarm Systems

Alarm systems definitely have a place in a home security plan and can be very effective if used properly. Alarm systems increase the
possibility of a burglar being caught by the police. Burglars will normally bypass a property with visible alarm decals or signs. Never write your alarm system pass code on or anywhere near the alarm keypad.



Alarm systems need to be properly installed and maintained. Alarm systems should have an audible horn or bell to be effective in case someone does break into your home and should be programmed to automatically reset after only one or two minutes. Alarm systems also can monitor for fire. If you use a central station to monitor your alarm, make sure your notification call list is always up-to-date.

  • Alarm systems can be effective deterrents
  • Alarm systems must be properly installed, programmed, and maintained to be effective
  • Alarm systems need to have an audible horn or bell to be effective and should automatically reset after only 1 or 2 minutes
  • Make sure your notification call list is up-to-date

You should never open your front door when someone knocks unless you know the person. Make sure you have a wide-angle peephole on your door so you can have a visual identification of anyone knocking.

Safes

Having a fire-resistant safe that cannot be easily moved is a smart investment. A home safe is designed to keep the smash and grab burglar, curious children, dishonest babysitters, housekeepers, and nannies from gaining access to important personal property. It's wise to anchor a home safe into the floor or permanent shelving.

Identification

We recommend that you photograph your valuables in their location around your home and make a list of their make, model and serial numbers. This is important for proof when filing an insurance claim. Be sure to safeguard your list.

Keep receipts of items in case you need to prove their value, and photocopy important documents. Keep receipts and photocopied documents in a secure place. Engrave your name on all electronic devices -- TV's, stereos, computers.


© Brian Blackwell Investigations 1998

Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA 
Licensed Private Investigator

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Victimology

Factors In Becoming A Victim

An important aspect of investigating a violent crime is an understanding of the victim and the relation that their lifestyle or personality characteristics may have contributed to the offender choosing them as a victim. People have the right to live how they wish - as long as they do not harm others - without becoming a victim. Yet the fact remains, that to understand the offender, one must first understand the victim.

Victims are classified during an investigation in three general categories that describe the level of risk their lifestyle represents in relation to the violent crime that has been committed. The importance of understanding this in an investigation is directly related back to the level of risk to the offender during the commission of the crime. This information is important to the investigation to better understand the sophistication or possible pathology of the offender.

High Risk Victims

Victims in this group have a lifestyle that makes them a higher risk for being a victim. The most obvious high risk victim is the prostitute. Prostitutes place themselves at risk every single time they go to work. Prostitutes are high risk because they will get into a stranger's automobile, go to secluded areas with strangers, and for the most part attempt to conceal their actions for legal reasons. Offenders often rely on all these factors and specifically target prostitutes because it lowers their chances of becoming a suspect in the crime. Therefore, in this example, the prostitute is a high risk victim creating a lower risk to the offender.

Moderate Risk Victims

Victims that fall into this category are lower risk victims, but for some reason were in a situation that placed them in a greater level of risk. A person that is stranded on a dark, secluded road due to a flat tire, that accepts a ride from a stranger and is then victimized would be a good example of this type of victim level risk.

Low Risk Victims

The lifestyle of these individuals would normally not place them in any degree of risk for becoming a victim of a violent crime. These individuals stay out of trouble, do not have peers that are criminal, are aware of their surroundings and attempt to take precautions to not become a victim. They lock the doors, do not use drugs, and do not go into areas that are dark and secluded.

Below is a list of variables that should be included when gathering information on a victim

  • Gender & Age
  • Personality
  • Lifestyle Habits
  • Reputation
  • Risk Level
  • Leisure Activities
  • Relationships: social, sexual, family
  • Dating/Sexual Habits
  • Family/Marital Status
  • Employment/Income
  • Friends/Enemies
  • Life Insurance?
  • Medical History
  • Physical Handicaps
  • Mental Stability
  • Mode of Transportation
  • Education
  • Alcohol/Drug Use?
  • Likes/Dislikes/Fears
  • Previous Victim?
  • Criminal History?
  • Victim's Reaction to an Attack - Passive/Aggressive?

After all information has been gathered, a timeline of events leading up to the crime should be created to better understand how this specific individual became a victim of a violent crime.

Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Criminal Investigations & Methods to Achieve Justice

What is a Criminal Investigation?

A criminal investigation is an official effort to uncover information about a crime. There are generally three ways that a person can be brought to justice for committing a criminal act. First, and usually the least likely, the individual is driven by their conscience to immediately confess. Second, the perpetrator is caught in the act. Third, and most common, a criminal investigation identifies the guilty party to the crime, after which he or she may confess or be convicted by trial.

When a crime has been committed, investigators have two primary concerns: who committed the crime and what the motive was. The reason why a person breaks a law is called the motive. The motive isn't always known after identifying the perpetrator in a criminal investigation. Sometimes the motive is suspected or known and used to catch the criminal. This is often true with crimes such as kidnappings and murders. Notes or other forms of evidence are sometimes left behind at a crime scene that help reveal the culprit and why the crime was committed.


Methods to Achieve Justice

Investigators may use a variety of methods to conduct a criminal investigation. They may use scientific techniques such as fingerprint and ballistics analysis, and even canines. A controversial method of investigation is the use of informants. Many people disagree with this practice because these individuals are generally criminals who are looking to get out of trouble or to reduce their punishments. It is therefore argued that they can be influenced to say or do whatever will please those investigating the case.

Some cases require investigation techniques that demand specialized knowledge or training that the investigators or colleagues may not have. This means that criminal investigators may have to employ others to help them. This is especially true with deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing. Although this technique is common place in to d
ay's criminal investigations, it is often performed by third-parties.

A criminal investigation does not always yield results. Sometimes suspects are accused only for it to be determined later that they are not guilty. At other times, an extensive criminal investigation may not produce any suspects. This can mean that no one will be punished for the crime that was committed.



Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA

Friday, July 18, 2014

Interviewing Suspects

Successful Interrogation Techniques

The successful interrogation of a suspect is mostly about psychology and quick thinking. You shouldn't try to interrogate anyone if you lose your nerve or have a prejudice as to the innocence of the person. Be calm and try to find the truth, not to prove you're right in your suspicions.

Criminal investigators interview suspects in order to establish guilt and apprehend criminals involved in all sorts of crimes. Investigators use many different interviewing techniques to establish the guilty party, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. The use of these techniques depends on the type of crime, the age and gender of the suspect and other factors. Good investigators know how to assess the situation and use the most effective technique to achieve their goals. 

Narrative Technique

This technique is quite straight-forward and is used in a variety of different interviewing situations by investigators around the world. The technique involves letting the suspect tell his side of the story without any interruption from the interviewers. The suspect may be asked to repeat the story as many as three or four times in order to establish consistency, or lack thereof, in the story. The investigator may listen to the story, verify facts or inconsistencies and then re-interrogate the suspect. 

Reid Technique

The Reid Technique is often criticized for convincing innocent suspects to admit crimes of which they are not guilty, but it is generally seen as an effective investigatory model. The technique involves a non-accusatory interview followed by carefully phrased behavior-provoking questions. The interviewer approaches the suspect in a non-confrontational, understanding way in order to make the suspect feel comfortable to the point that they acknowledge and admit the crime. A series of nine steps known as the Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation are used to bring the suspect to confess the crime. The focus of the Reid Technique, a registered trademark of the law firm John Reid and Associates, is on eliminating innocent suspects. 

Bluff Technique

The bluff technique is an effective way of scaring guilty suspects into admitting the crime. The interviewer tells the suspect that there is unequivocal evidence of guilt, that, for example, a reliable witness saw them commit the crime or that his or her fingerprints have been found on the murder weapon, even though this information is unsubstantiated. This tactic essentially scares the suspect into admitting his or her guilt. In essence the interviewer approaches the suspect by saying "we know what you did, now just admit it," and the suspect cracks. If the suspect is innocent, he will maintain his disbelief at the given facts.

Steps To A Successful Interview / Interrogation:

1. Start the interview with a light conversation during which you will be able to establish the character of the questioned person. This may involve their occupation, musical preferences, family, etc. During this preliminary conversation, look for signs that the person is nervous and scared, prone to bragging, confident or not. Mark their level of intelligence and adapt to it.

2. Abruptly switch to the subject of the questioning. Be sure to notice the interviewed person's reaction. Remember that in 9 out of 10 cases the first impressions are the most correct.

3. Let the interrogated person tell you their story without interrupting them. Look for inconsistencies. Being too detailed often shows the person has prepared themselves for questioning and has had the time to make their story up.

4. Have another person enter the room shortly after the interviewed person has finished their story. Your associate must pretend to say something in your ear. Give the interviewed person a short look and excuse yourself.

5. Return in about 15 minutes. At this time, the suspect should be worried as to what has happened during your absence.

6. Take a few seconds during which you rearrange things on the table/desk, sit quietly, or scribble something on a scrap of paper. Then proceed to ask the suspect about the inconsistent points in their story.

7. Ask for details. Some questions, like the color of a hit-and-run vehicle are easy to answer and the suspect saying they do not remember is an obvious attempt to conceal something. Likewise, it would be unusual in most instances for the interrogated person to have seen or remember the license plate number, so answering this question would show them having thought the whole thing over.

8. Combine real questioning with irrelevant questions, leading the suspect into believing you have something on your mind.

9. Look for signs the suspect is lying. These may include crossing their hands (defensive position), sitting on the edge of the chair, too relaxed posture, tilting their head to one side, looking up as they think of the answer.

10. Frequent use of expletives like "honestly", frankly, etc. shows that the suspect is lying. People who believe in what they say do not appeal to the listener's trust.

11. Ask the suspect a question, the answer to which you already know. This way you can see whether they're willing to correctly answer your questions.

12. Be careful about the details. Avoid mentioning details about the crime. Try to get the suspect to tell you something about the crime scene that isn't public knowledge and only the perpetrator would know. Get them to give details away that reveals them as the person who committed the crime.

13. Remember that most people lie when questioned. But it doesn't mean they're a criminal. 

Tips and Important Facts
  • Be calm. A show of aggressiveness will only make your suspect refuse to talk to you.
  • When you find a major inconsistency in the suspect's story, don't be too quick to point it out. Let them build the rest of their story on a false premise.
  • A person looking down while thinking of the answer shows they're trying to remember, whereas looking up means they're just making it up at the moment.
  • Answering a question too soon means the suspect has made the story up. If they are telling you the truth, it should take some time for them to remember the details.

Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA

Friday, June 13, 2014

Private Investigators & Surveillance

What is Surveillance?

Surveillance is the close observation of a person, place, or object. It is the practice of watching a subject in order to document and identify any of the contact, interactions, or whereabouts of the subject. Surveillance investigations can include:
  • Missing person searches
  • Cheating spouse investigations
  • Recurrent theft
  • Worker's compensation claim
  • Vandalism

Why Conduct Surveillance?

PI Surveillance from CarThere are a number of reasons to conduct surveillance. Surveillance is conducted to prevent crime, to obtain evidence of a crime, to obtain evidence in civil suits, to document an individual’s location, to document activities in or around a specific location or building, to obtain information to be used in an interrogation, to gather intelligence, or to obtain information to be used in court.

Simply, you might need surveillance from a qualified private investigator at some point in your life. With marital infidelity on the rise, employee dishonesty increasing, and crime rates a concern for everyone across the country, surveillance is one way you can stay safe and secure. Surveillance gives you the facts and proof you need about those people you trust with your home, your children, your money, and your life.

Does Surveillance Affect Privacy?

Many people worry that surveillance affects their privacy. Often times, surveillance is a balancing act of security and privacy concerns. Thus, it's important to stay on the right side of the law. New privacy laws mean that surveillance through audio and video equipment as well as other forms of surveillance equipment can be restricted when not performed by a private investigator.

Can I Use Home Surveillance Systems?

If you want security surveillance for your home, home surveillance equipment usually causes very few legal problems. As long as you're not using home surveillance equipment to monitor people without their permission, you can generally use security surveillance equipment to keep your home safe from intruders. If, on the other hand, you are using surveillance techniques or surveillance equipment to observe potentially cheating spouses, potentially dishonest employees, or caretakers, you may be breaking the law.

Who Should Conduct Surveillance?

The best option is to hire a qualified private investigator. A professional investigator is licensed and insured to provide surveillance and to gather evidence through audio and video equipment. Plus, a professional investigator is often the most effective way to observe someone or something. Professional investigators are trained for years in order to be able to track down alleged criminals or uncover dishonesty in any form.

Since private investigators are well-versed in current laws, you don't have to worry about legal impediments when you entrust your surveillance needs to a private investigator. Plus, professional investigators have access to various types of surveillance equipment -- one-way mirrors, specialized equipment, and special vehicles -- that can make surveillance more effective. If surveillance reveals illegal activity, evidence gathered by private investigators often stands up in court much better than evidence gathered by the average citizen.

Or you could commit time researching laws in your area or hiring a lawyer to find out whether your surveillance techniques are legal in your area. Of course, you can always stop surveillance entirely and just hope that the people you trust with your safety and security are, in fact, trustworthy. But let's face it: these alternatives either put you at risk or are expensive.

Brian Blackwell Investigations

If you suspect that your spouse is cheating, that a nanny or babysitter is abusive, or that an employee is dishonest, it can be difficult to concentrate on everyday tasks. Why waste your time, energy, and stay up nights worrying? A single call can put you on the path to learning the truth.

When your intuition tells you that something is wrong, you are usually correct. We provide you with the answers necessary to make sound decisions.

Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Private Investigator Basics: Surveillance

Surveillance is the art of watching someone, some place, or some object in order to document and identify any contact, activities and whereabouts. Surveillance is conducted to prevent a crime, to obtain evidence of a crime, to obtain evidence of wrongful action in a civil suit, to document an individual’s location, to document activities in or around a specific location or building, to obtain information to be used in an interrogation,  to gather intelligence as a basis for future action and to obtain information to be used in court.

Types Of Investigations Requiring Surveillance

Missing person, worker’s compensation claim, cheating spouse, vandalism, recurrent theft. 

Types Of Surveillance

The types of surveillance that fit with individual cases vary. Private investigators have to decide which types of surveillance are best suited by understanding the case and the desired outcome of the surveillance. The nature of the case will dictate whether the surveillance will be mechanical or human, whether it will be covert or overt and whether the surveillance will be stationary or mobile.

Mechanical Surveillance verses Human Surveillance

Mechanical surveillance is when technological devices are used to conduct surveillance. This is beneficial because equipment doesn’t get tired, hungry, or bored. Equipment can be used at multiple locations at the same time and information from equipment at different locations can be accessed simultaneously. For example, mechanical surveillance would be used over human in a case where someone is stealing from a construction site. Private investigators can put up cameras and go back and harvest the recordings.

Human surveillance is when the investigative team is the main source of information. Human surveillance includes tailing targets and observing targets in person. If a private investigator is looking for a missing child, they have to start by investigating the usual haunts of the child and personally visiting those locations.

Overt Surveillance verses Covert Surveillance

Overt surveillance is visible security like security agents at the mall and security cameras in casinos. With overt surveillance, people know the surveillance equipment is there to make sure no one is stealing or cheating.

Covert surveillance is undetected surveillance. Undercover detectives usually conduct this type of surveillance. It may involve trailing a target or using a piece of equipment, like a GPS tracking device, on a company truck or automobile without the company or driver’s knowledge (provided it does not violate the laws within that state).

Mobile Surveillance verses Stationary Surveillance

Mobile surveillance, obviously, involves following a moving target. Say a target you are tailing gets in his or her car and drives away, you may want to continue the surveillance by using your automobile.

Stationary surveillance is when the investigator stays in one place to observe the target. If a commercial or residential property is being vandalized, a private investigator may be hired to watch the property from a stationary post, like a parked car, to gain evidence of the crime and who the perpetrator is.

Prepare For Surveillance

Know the client’s needs. What is it that the client is trying to accomplish through surveillance? The answer to this question determines what types of surveillance will be needed, the scope of the project and the types of equipment that will be used. Private investigators have to educate the potential client and manage their expectations as investigations are often more complicated and costly than the client anticipates.

Know The Subject
Before performing surveillance, investigators should always complete a background check with comprehensive records research on the target and acquire as much information as possible about them - name, address, phone number, complete physical description, photograph, and relatives in the immediate vicinity. Private investigators will also want to know pertinent background information such as routines, habits, hobbies, schedules and associates.

Know The Area
Private investigators should always have a map of the area where the surveillance will be taking place. If possible, they should also have a photograph of the building they are watching or the location where surveillance will begin. If surveillance is taking place at night or in the early morning, it’s a good idea to visit the site during various periods of the day and night.

Know Your Equipment
The kind of equipment a private investigator uses is contingent upon the nature of the surveillance itself. Private investigators need to get familiar with their equipment ahead of time and practice with it. If surveillance involves a camera or a video camera, prepared investigators will have two of them with backup batteries. Investigators seldom get a second opportunity to capture an activity.

Every private investigator should have a flashlight for working at night, binoculars or a telescope, a tape recorder, two-way radios for team surveillance, a tripod for security equipment, full tank of gas in the car, appropriate attire, snacks and water.

Know Yourself
Private investigators must do what is necessary to prepare their minds for work, like exercise, get plenty of sleep and have a practiced plan. All private investigators should also to be prepared for a situation where they are approached by a stranger or by the police while conducting surveillance. Always have a convincing story ready to tell.

What Every Investigator Should Know About Surveillance

Surveillance is incredibly demanding and challenging. Private investigators who are successful at surveillance have to possess certain qualities. Someone with an outgoing personality, exceptional communication skills, the ability to take action, a good memory, an ability to blend into their surroundings and a strong attention to detail would be a good fit for surveillance. This person should also be honest, patient, observant, resourceful, flexible and focused. Not every person is able to sit for hours and focus on a particular area. Investigators often sit in an automobile for up to ten hours on the coldest day of winter or the hottest day of summer.

Ethics and Laws Relevant to Surveillance
All private investigators should know the laws that may affect their work in their respective states or face a possible prison sentence. Trespassing and audio recording laws are especially important to know. Laws regarding audio recording vary state to state and some states prohibit covert audio recording.

Conclusion

Surveillance is not always necessary in an investigation. Surveillance adds to an investigation when a visual confirmation of the actions or the whereabouts of the target is necessary to concluding the investigation. If an investigator needs to catch a thief in the act, find and confirm the whereabouts of a missing person, or prove a worker’s compensation claim is false, surveillance is necessary.


Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA

** An interesting and eye-opening article on the subject of audio recording Broken Record Laws  

 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Skip Tracing / Missing Persons Investigations

Private Investigator Basics: Missing Persons Investigations

Missing persons investigations are the best way to find out the truth about anyone you can't find.

On average, more than 800,000 people are reported missing and are entered into FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) annually. Of these, 85%-90% are minors. These statistics do not include those who are unofficially missing such as those who have not been reported as missing persons.

One of the big problems with police-led missing persons investigations is simply that the term missing persons is so narrow. Police will only begin looking for a missing child at a specific amount of time after the child was last seen and by that time, it may be too late if the child has been kidnapped by a pedophile or child killer. Police are also reluctant, due to thinning resources, to search for people who voluntarily left home or for those who live on the streets. Even in a police-led missing person investigation, police will stop looking after a certain amount of time and will declare the case a cold case. 

Police do their best with the resources they have, but law enforcement simply is not equipped to deal with the crime rates today. Anyone who wants real answers and fast needs to speak to a private investigator. A professional investigator will start looking for someone as soon as you feel uneasy and will continue to search as long as you are still looking for answers.

Skip Tracing - People Locates

Skip tracing is a process used to find someone who is missing. It generally requires gathering, organizing and analyzing large amounts of data on an individual to make a conclusion about where he or she might be. Private investigators and professional skip tracers typically carry out these activities. Done most commonly to find people to rekindle relationships or handle legal and financial situations.

Skip tracing is an colloquial term used to describe the process of locating a person's whereabouts for any number of purposes. The term comes from the word "skip" being used to describe the person being searched for, and comes from the idiomatic expression "to skip town," meaning to depart, perhaps in a rush, and leaving minimal clues behind for someone to "trace" the "skip" to a new location. 

The days when you went to the phone book, criss-cross directory, or reverse directory are old-school and costly compared to the skip tracing technology options today. In fact, just looking for an address or a phone number isn’t the only thing investigators can ask of technology.

With the advent of technology in general, the availability and quality of information has expanded dramatically. Price can certainly be an issue, but many times the price is very inexpensive when measured to the benefit gained by it.


Professional investigators are hired to find:
  • Long lost loved ones or family members who have voluntarily disappeared or run away
  • Fugitives
  • Missing persons who have been gone a long time and are part of a cold case
  • Runaways and miners who have been kidnapped
Basically, if you are worrying about someone's whereabouts and wish to locate someone who is not easy to find, a qualified missing persons investigator will be able to use advanced techniques to help find the person you are looking for.


Professional investigators use a number of techniques to find missing persons:

  • Networking with fugitive recovery agents, law enforcement, other private investigators, or paying informants. Private investigators often have extensive networks of people they can recruit to help them in a search.
  • Surveillance and videotaping. Investigators can observe places where a missing person is likely to be or can observe and track a suspect in a missing persons case.
  • Searching hospitals and mortuaries. Private investigators can search through a number of facilities where a victim may be.
  • Doing background checks, questioning witnesses, and other investigative techniques. Private investigators can turn to others to isolate likely suspects or likely sources of aid in finding a missing person.

Count on the team at Brian Blackwell Investigations in Seattle, Washington, to provide you with unparalleled skip tracing investigations. Whether you want to track someone down or know if he or she is committing fraud, we are here for you.


Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA
 

Private Investigator Basics: Background Checks

Private investigators perform background checks to verify a person's professional and personal history. A proper background check involves conducting interviews and searching for documents that will give you a greater understanding of the person you are looking into.

Can't I just pay for an online background check?

There are automated background checks available on the Internet, but the information is often incomplete or inaccurate, and each record, whether found through the Internet or another source, needs to be verified for validity. A private investigator can provide detailed and accurate information about a person and ensure that the information is accurate.

There is no standard or routine background check. The investigation should be tailored to your areas of concern, reasons for finding out more, and your overall needs. Whether you're hiring a new employee, looking for a nanny, or are about to make a new investment, it's a good idea to get a better understanding of who or what you will be involved with.


Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA

Monday, June 9, 2014

Private Investigator Basics: Interviewing

Investigators interview plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, victims, suspects, subjects of background investigations and experts.

What Is Interviewing?

Interviewing is the process of gathering facts from people that can then become testimonial evidence.

Types Of Investigations That Require Interviews
Theft, missing persons, background investigations, situations where an expert could be of assistance.

Why Conduct Interviews?
Interviews are conducted to reconstruct a crime or event, to obtain evidence, to look for leads, to identify facts and to find out what actually happened.

Preparing For An Interview

Preparation is the key to conducting a quality interview. An investigative approach for interviewing begins with a prioritized list of witnesses to interview with the major witnesses at the top. A private investigator has to know as much as possible about the statement the witness has given to the authorities and has to know the facts of the case.

Research The Interview Subject
Private investigators must conduct extensive records research and a background check on the interview subject before going to speak with them. Investigators should know basic background information about the witness, like if the witness is related to any of the participants in the event, if the witness wears glasses and if he or she has a criminal record.

Anticipate The Subject’s Needs
Depending on the case, interview subjects will have differing needs. In criminal defense cases people that are witnesses to crimes might fear retaliation or retribution if they step forward. They may fear going against the police. People that are friends or relatives of the crime victim are not going to want to talk to anyone from the defense. Private investigators have to be psychologically prepared for the difficulties of talking to these people and especially for talking to the crime victims themselves. They may be angry and private investigators have to calm them down and get them to share what they are going to say in court or at least to elaborate on what they told the police.

Document The Interview
Notes should always be taken either during or immediately after an interview. Notes can be taken by hand, on an audio recording device or, if the interview subject is willing, on video. A private investigator must build rapport and make the subject feel comfortable enough to allow them to take notes. If the subject gives a very helpful statement that is exculpatory, a private investigator should ask to audio or video record the statement.

What Every Investigator Should Know About Interviewing

Setting Up The Interview
If possible, a private investigator should schedule interviews ahead of time with cooperating witnesses. If not, the investigator should make a cold call visit with interview subjects.

Engage In Active Listening
Private investigators should operate on the 80/20 rule. Interview subjects should be speaking 80% of the time and interviewers should be speaking 20% of the time. Active listening is an important aspect of interviewing as it encourages the flow of information as the interview subject is talking. Private investigators conducting interviews should confirm that they are listening by summarizing back what the interview subject has said.

Build Rapport
Private investigators have to build rapport with interview subjects to earn their trust and get them to open up. This can be accomplished through participating in small talk. Investigators should look for some common ground with the interview subject and start a conversation from there. The key is for the investigator to be able to establish an open communication channel, get some information and leave the door open for a follow-up interview.

Recognize Truth v. Deception
Private investigators should begin interviews with closed questions and slowly shift to open questions which require some more thought. Investigators should start off with basic questions about the subject’s background to which they already know the answers. While the interview subject is answering these questions, private investigators have to watch how they look while giving truthful answers. Later on, when the investigator gets to the meat of the questioning, he or she can recognize constant truthful behavior or a shift in behavior signified by vocal volume, pitch, halted speech, furtive facial gestures or micro-expressions.

Interpreting Non-Verbal Communication
Focusing on these behaviors comes with experience. As a rule of interviewing, innocent people can be calmed down and guilty people generally get very nervous. They begin to display verbal cues discussed above. The interview subject that is guilty or that is lying will also display non-verbal cues like clenching fists, a reddening face, bulging veins and a loss of eye contact.

After An Interview

Finalizing Notes
Private investigators must preserve their interviews by finalizing their notes or transcribing an audio or video recording so that it becomes part of the record. Investigators will then memorialize their notes in a report that includes when the interview occurred, how long it lasted, who was present and where it occurred. The report should describe what information was obtained. If it is an audio or video recording, the information should be documented verbatim, and all notes should be kept until the matter is fully adjudicated as discoverable records.

Follow-Up Interviews
Follow-up interviews are sometimes necessary. If the witness did not give enough information initially, a private investigator would have to return to their home or place of work and continue building rapport until the witness was willing to speak truthfully. When information needs to be memorialized, a private investigator should type up a narrative of the interview and conduct a follow-up. The interview subject should read the narrative, make corrections and sign off on the interview. If an investigator has found an inconsistency between the stories of two different interview subjects, it is a good idea to return to both of these subjects and conduct second interviews. If a private investigator needs further documentary evidence, such as telephone records, that were not available during the first interview, they should follow up with a subject and obtain these records.

New Leads
Subjects may give a private investigator information that leads to a new interview subject that was not initially included in the investigative plan. Whenever an investigator receives a new lead on a possible interview subject they should always follow up on the lead by conducting background research, contacting the new subject and scheduling and completing an interview. Private investigators should follow the same steps when preparing for, conducting and finalizing a follow-up interview as they would for the initial interview.

Conclusion

Interviewing is vital to many investigations because it gives a verbal confirmation of an event. In cases where a one time occurrence is being investigated, interview subjects are often the only people who saw what actually happened. This type of information is called testimonial evidence and can be invaluable in court, especially when combined with documentary evidence found during records research.


Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA