As promised, here's the second part of my interview with Amy Drescher, private investigator.
8. How much do you utilize computers in your business?
The internet is a tool of the trade. I’m online daily to run background checks, search profiles on Facebook, access property records and on and on. A serious P.I. subscribes to at least three different proprietary databases. It’s like “one-stop shopping”—with essentially one-click, we can access comprehensive data on an individual.
Also, I never leave the office without my iPad so that I have a constant link to the internet, especially during a surveillance. Live GPS mapping and access to databases, including motor vehicle records (license plate numbers) are invaluable.
9. Could you list some differences between what a private investigator can do as opposed to police officers?
The most obvious difference is that a PI has no power to enforce the law or arrest someone. Also, I can’t be accused/tried for violating someone’s civil rights. While I don’t need a search warrant to snoop around in someone’s home, I do, however, need permission.
The best way to generally answer that question is this: A private investigator follows the exact same rule book as any civilian. If it’s against the law for YOU to do it, then it’s against the law for me, too. An experienced PI fully understands local, state and federal laws in all areas related to the job, from privacy rights to public record access.
10. In my book, “Beta”, my investigator, Mallory Petersen, utilizes at least one individual who could be termed an informant. How often do you utilize civilian (non-PIs) consultants or informants?
The short answer is rarely.
11. At one point in the story, Mallory Petersen receives a visit from a remote viewer. In your profession, have you ever encountered a person with psychic abilities?
Interestingly, I had a case that involved an entire family of unscrupulous psychics! It’s a long story so I’ll just say that my investigator endured two psychic readings as a “ruse” to get inside the physic’s home, the same place where business was conducted. Interestingly, the psychic failed to predict the investigator’s true identity and the real reason the PI was there.
12. Mallory Petersen tends to have clients and cases coming from the nuttier side of life. Could you briefly relate one of your ‘goofier’ cases?
One particularly odd case involved me and my team conducting surveillance, over several months, to document a cheating spouse. The cheating spouse was very wealthy and had hired a security team to protect his “interest”. That is, the security team’s job was to insure that no one was observing or following the cheater and/or the paramour (the legal term to describe an illicit lover, male or female).
So, we were constantly faced with conducting surveillance on the “counter-surveillance” team in order to perform the original task of catching the cheater. It was a very tricky covert game of PI’s spying on PI’s and took an extraordinary and creative effort. I’m pleased to report that the other team never knew of our presence and we fully documented not only the infidelity but the fact that the cheating spouse spent and wasted nearly 100,000 dollars (of marital funds) on the security team.
13. What errors do you see writers make in regards to writing about private investigators?
The fictional PI tends to be a super hero when conducting a moving or rolling surveillance i.e., surveillance while driving. A single PI following a Subject should be a very brief scene because of the strong likelihood that the PI is going to lose the Subject or the PI is going to get busted.
As a matter of fact, I will flatly refuse a client who wants to save money and asks for only one PI to do a moving surveillance. Writers and the general public seem to underestimate the constant challenges of a moving surveillance, regardless of whether we’re in heavy interstate traffic or on a rural road. A successful outcome is greatly improved with two or three PI vehicles. It’s one thing to follow a vehicle around town but it’s an entirely different ballgame to follow someone and NOT be detected!!
The other myth about private investigators is that we arm ourselves with a concealed weapon, namely a handgun. The handful of PIs that I know who carry do so because they would even if they weren’t a PI. The PI is armed with pepper spray, a stun gun or a taser is more plausible.
14. Do you have any advice for mystery writers for adding realism to their books?
• Learn about our “tricks of the trade”. Ideally, you would pick the brain of an experienced PI who will share what’s in his/her bag of tricks.
• Here are a few keywords to Google (possibly include the term “private investigator”): pretexting, spoof call, gps tracking devices, computer forensics, key logger software, shooting video in darkness, legally steal garbage, simple disguises.
• One element of realism that tends to be ignored (and maybe for good reason)is something we face on every surveillance. Hunger and having to pee. Regarding the latter, occasionally we have an opportunity to race to a public restroom. The more common scenario takes more skill and I apologize in advance for a crude description. As a matter of routine, my female colleagues and I pee in plastic cups. The “pee-in-the-cup” method which, if done correctly is fast, convenient and sanitary enough.
• Read The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating, 2nd Edition by Steven Kerry Brown
My thanks to Amy Drescher for her time to attend Killer Nashville and taking the time to give us some insight into a very interesting profession. For more information, plese review the following:
ROSETTA STONE INVESTIGATIONS
615.305.0060 Franklin, TN 37069
TN Private Investigation & Polygraph Commission #5936/#1452
or Google search: “Amy Drescher, private investigator, youtube”
Ms. Pam Taylor, Attorney at Law
401 Commerce Street, Suite 800
Nashville, TN 37219 (615) 244-5200
Mr. Larry Hayes, Jr., Attorney at Law
214 Second Avenue North, Suite 103
Nashville, TN 37201 (615) 244-2202
Honorable Kevin Sharp, Federal Judge (U.S. Middle Dist. of TN) for the Middle District of Tennessee
801 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203, (615) 736-5498
Ms. Renee Nantz, Licensed Private Investigator
Nashville, TN 37201 (615) 573-5095