Nowadays, a people search often begins on a computer. But even though private investigators have access to professional databases the general public does not, we have to hit the streets from time to time to locate missing persons, interview witnesses, serve subpoenas, and find information that exists in the streets, not online.
Whether skip tracing or serving legal documents, private investigators cannot rely on just the Internet to locate their target
I have built a reputation for locating hard to find individuals to the point where the majority of my business is now mostly skip tracing and process serving work. My success comes from dogged determination. I set goals and decide I am not going to give up until I find the person. To me, there is nothing like the excitement that comes from accomplishing something difficult. There are no words that explain the exhilaration one feels after you see someone you have just spent several days searching for.
Skip Tracing Requires Determination and Confidence — No Room For CowardsAfter gathering data on the "target" online, I check their most recent address in person. If they are not there, sometimes there is someone else there I can talk to. I find that talking to people provides me with the best information. An ex-girlfriend / boyfriend or roommate; family; and neighbors can be great resources.
Never overlook a landlord. Searching for a murder suspect, I once spent an entire day checking on different addresses, talking with his family and friends, but it was talking to a landlord at the first address that paid off. The first address had been at an apartment complex. I stopped in at the leasing office and talked with one of the property managers. She had no information on him, but asked for my phone number in case she saw him. The next day, she called me. She found out the suspect had a brother who worked at a nearby warehouse, and that the suspect drove a black pickup truck and would pick up his brother after work every evening. A lot of landlords won't give up information on a tenant for privacy reasons, but many will, especially if they don’t like their tenant very much.
If the first home does not provide any results, I go on to the next, and the next if necessary. What I have found out about checking addresses is that a family member is living at one of the addresses. Another thing is that people often give out a false address that is near their real address. Usually it is the same street, but with a different house number. If no one at the house knows your target, then knock on the neighbors’ doors. If you have a street number of 116, then check out 161.
Another technique I sometimes use is calling the target, telling him or her what was going on, and explain that it wasn’t going away. I then ask if we could meet on their schedule. Many times, people are happy they have some control over the situation, and they set a day and time to meet.
In ConclusionWhile it is often true that most people feel more inclined to talk with a police officer than a private investigator, there are a few things a private investigator can do to set themselves up for a successful conversation such as never being confrontational, being polite and respectful, and dressing professionally.
And as a final thought: You can also use some elicitation interview techniques. I will sometimes talk as if I know the target, and say something like, “Did he ever get that job at the ABC Company?” The person you are talking to might respond with, "No, he is still working at Mike's Auto Shop." You never know until you try.
Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA