Selecting the Right Investigator
To Help With Suspected Abductions
By Bob Heales
Families who are attempting
to select a qualified private investigator to assist with a missing loved one are doing so at a time of extreme emotional
hardship. There are many qualified private investigators, but unfortunately we
always hear stories from families who feel they were taken advantage of. By carefully
screening the investigator you are considering, you can hopefully choose someone who is compassionate and understanding, as
well as qualified to assist.
The selection should be
made with the assistance of other family members or friends. In some circumstances,
someone within that group may already know of someone who is a reputable private investigator.
Private investigators are
licensed in all but eight states. In the states that don’t have licensing,
many local municipalities require a private investigator/detective license. Most
reputable private investigators also belong to one or more trade associations. Most
states have a statewide private investigator association similar to the Professional Private Investigators Association of
Colorado (PPIAC) or Minnesota Association of Private Investigators (MAPI). Qualified
investigators may also be located through organizations such as the National Council of Investigation and Security Services,
www.nciss.org, or the World Association of Detectives, www.wad.net. The more years of investigative experience a person has, the better.
Although you should qualify
your private investigator, they may not need to be licensed in the state where the work is being done if they are organizing
searches and resources and not actually investigating the case or collecting a fee.
Many private investigators will often work these types of cases at a reduced fee or even donate some of their time. The community and friends will often hold fundraisers to cover search costs and the
expenses of a private investigator.
You want a private investigator
that is comfortable working with law enforcement and not overstepping their boundary.
They don’t need to be stumbling over law enforcement while an active investigation and law enforcement search
is taking place. At some point, they may need to take a more active role in the
investigation, but initially they need to be able to work with law enforcement while not getting in their way. It’s a fine line.
When someone is missing
and believed to have been abducted, the hope is that they will soon be found alive.
The missing are sometimes found alive in a matter of hours or days. There
is always reason to maintain hope. Elizabeth Smart was found six months after
she was abducted. It is also a sad fact that the victims do not always survive
their ordeal. If that’s the case, they deserve to be brought home to their
families. A family should never have to live with the uncertainty.
Initially, private investigators
can be helpful in organizing volunteer searches with friends and family. Those
who aren’t up to searching can help put up flyers, help organize a website, and otherwise help get the word out. The private investigator can help act as a spokesperson when the family is too overwhelmed
to talk to the media. The media needs to stay involved to keep the community
and volunteers involved, and a PI can help do that. When the media loses interest the story sometimes fades quickly. A private investigator can also help line up sources such as search dogs, divers,
aircraft and volunteers. They should be able to point the family to other groups
and resources such as some of those listed on my website at www.HelpTheMissing.com.
Just because an area has
been searched once doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be looked at several more times, depending on the terrain. The private investigator can usually work with law enforcement to determine if a prime
focus area should be looked at again after law enforcement has been there, or if there are other areas law enforcement would
like to have an organized group look at. The investigator needs to know who to
contact immediately should any possible evidence be located, and must keep people away from the site until officials arrive. In some larger searches, law enforcement may ask the investigator to collect and document
certain types of possible evidence. That is a decision to be made by law enforcement.
By having some basic knowledge
of how to qualify a private investigator and ways they can help, a distraught family can hopefully select someone who is experienced
and able to help them through their darkest hours.