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For the 1982 song by Dire Straits, see Private Investigations.
Allan Pinkerton (left), an early American private investigator, with Abraham Lincoln and John
A private investigator (often abbreviated to PI and informally called a private eye), a private
detective or inquiry agent, is a person who can be hired by individuals or groups to undertake
investigatory law services. Private detectives/investigators often work for attorneys in civil cases.
4 Undercover investigator
5 Across the world
7 Notable private investigators
8 See also
10 External links
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
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 United States, 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. Allan
Pinkerton hired Kate Warne in 1856 as a private detective, making her the first female private
detective in America.
During the union unrest in the US in the late 19th century, companies sometimes hired operatives
and armed guards from the Pinkertons. 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.
Increasingly, modern PIs 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. However, in 2009 a Toronto Star
journalist obtained a private investigator's license in Ontario with no training, and reported that
other Ontarians had done the same.
A handful of skilled private detectives/investigators work with defense attorneys on capital
punishment and other criminal defense cases. Many are insurance investigators who 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.
Most jurisdictions require a clean criminal record at the licensing application entry point. When a
board of directors exists, it will review an applicant's appeal to determine whether the board can
approve the application based on the elapsed amount of time since the last offence was recorded.
The board of appeal may approve an application based on good conduct within the last five to ten
Private investigators can also be used to perform due diligence for an investor who may be
considering investing money with an 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, Petters, Rothstein and the hundreds of others reported by the SEC and
other law-enforcement agencies.
PIs 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 PIs 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. There are a handful of firms that
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); This type of niche service is
typically conducted by those with backgrounds in intelligence/counterintelligence, executive
protection, and a small number from law enforcement entities whose duties included the covert
installation of eavesdropping devices as a tool in organized crime, terrorism and narco-trafficking
investigations. The best known of these firms in the U.S. include Granite Island Group, Confidential
Research Investigations LLC, Murray Associates,SLC Security Services LLC and TSCM/Special
Operations Group Inc. Other PIs, also known as Corporate Investigators, specialize in corporate
matters, including anti-fraud work, loss prevention, internal investigations of employee misconduct
(such as EEO violations and sexual harassment), the protection of intellectual property and trade
secrets, anti-piracy, copyright infringement investigations, due diligence investigations, malware
and cyber criminal activity and computer forensics work. Some PIs act as professional witnesses
where they observe situations with a view to reporting the actions or lack of them to a court or
Effective Private Investigator to gather evidence in anti-social behavior.
An undercover investigator, undercover detective, or undercover agent is a person who conducts
investigations of suspected or confirmed criminal activity while impersonating a disinterested third
party. Undercover investigators often infiltrate a suspected insurgent group, posing as a person
interested in purchasing illegal goods or services with the ultimate aim of obtaining information
about their assigned target.
Many undercover investigators carry hidden cameras and recorders strapped to their bodies to help
them document their investigations. The period of the investigation could last for several months or,
in some extreme cases, years. Due to the dangerous nature of the job, their real identities are kept
secret throughout their active careers. Economic investigations, business intelligence and
information on competitors, security advice, special security services information, criminal
investigation, investigations background and profile polygraph tests, are all typical examples of such
Across the world
Many jurisdictions require PIs to be licensed, and depending on local laws, they may or may not
carry a firearm, some are former law enforcement agents (including former police officers), some
are former spies, some are former military, some used to work for a private military company, and
some are former bodyguards and security guards, although many are not. While PIs may investigate
criminal matters, most do not have police authority, and as such they are only limited to the powers
of citizen's arrest and detainment that any other citizen has. 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.
Private investigators in Australia must be licensed by the licensing authority relevant to the State
they are located in. This applies to all States except the Australian Capital Territory. Companies
offering investigation services must also hold a business licence and all their operatives must hold
individual licences. Generally the licences are administered and regulated by the State Police;
however, in some states, this can also be managed by other government agencies.
To become registered in New South Wales, you will require a CAPI licence which you can apply for
through the NSW Police Force Website. The Australian Capital Territory does not require Private
Investigators to be licensed, although they are still bound by legislation. A PI working in the ACT can
not enter the NSW area without a CAPI license or else they will be in breach of the law.
In 2001, the government passed the licensing of private investigators and private investigation firms
in UK and Wales over to SIA (Security Industry Authority act), who acted as the regulatory body
from then on. However, due to the cutbacks of this SIA, licensing of private investigators in the UK
was halted indefinitely. As of the moment there are no governmental backed authorities in the UK to
license private investigators.
The SIA have announced that Private Investigators in the UK are to become licenced for the first
time from May 2015. However, at this time this is only the scheduled date for the issue to be
discussed in parliament. In December 2014, Corporate Livewire produced an article written by a UK
Private Investigator at BAR Investigations, addressing the issues surrounding private investigation
in http://hitman.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page the UK. 
Main article: Detective fiction
The PI genre in fiction dates to Edgar Allan Poe, who created the character C. Auguste Dupin in the
1840s. Dupin, an amateur crime-solver residing in Paris appeared in three Poe stories.
Notable private Effective Private Investigator investigators
Charles Frederick Field
David P. Weber
^ Historique des détectives et enquêteurs
privés et grandes dates de la profession - "Le
Bureau des Renseignements Universels pour
le commerce et l'Industrie"
^ a b c d e f g h "Private Detectives and
Investigators". United States Department of
Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,
2010-2011 Edition. 2010.
^ "Kate Warne America's First female
Private-Eye". Pimall.com. Retrieved 2013-0-
^ 5 U.S. Code 3108; Public Law 89-554, 80
Stat. 416 (1966); ch. 208 (5th par. under
"Public Buildings"), 27 Stat. 591 (1893). The
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in
U.S. ex rel. Weinberger v. Equifax, 557 F.2d
456 (5th Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S.
1035 (1978), held that "The purpose of the
Act and the legislative history reveal that an
organization was 'similar' to the Pinkerton
Detective Agency only if it offered for hire mercenary, quasi-military forces as strikebreakers and
armed guards. It had the secondary effect of deterring any other organization from providing such
services lest it be branded a 'similar organization.'" 557 F.2d at 462; see also "GAO Decision B-
298370; B-298490, Brian X. Scott (Aug. 18, 2006).".
^ "Pinkertons". Tom-horn.com. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
^ Popplewell, Brett (2009-09-18). "$80 and I'm a security guard". The Star (Toronto). Retrieved
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