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What is a Private Investigator?

You will have formed your own impression of what a private investigator is….you may also believe you know what a private investigator does…..your impressions might be shaped by the tv and the media. Your image might include the private investigator as a surveillance expert or as a “sleuth”, locating information, finding clues and solving mysteries. More latterly you may have seen a lot of dramas involving forensic investigations. If you watch a lot of American TV you might think your average Private Eye carry’s a gun and is always engaged in glamorous assignments. When you are operational, I guarantee that you will tell your clients, that a lot of what they have seen private investigators do on the telly is actually “Total” fiction or it is just not lawful.

In reality you will conduct surveillance, take routine statements, investigate low level (civil) crime and serve legal documents and the like. If you get specialised you may become expert at locating debtors and missing people. You will find your time as a private investigator the most stimulating, interesting and exciting time of your working life. You will need to marry any existing skills you have with the key skills that a private investigator needs to operate and prosper in today’s world.

Private Investigators exist in many guises ranging from one person operators right up to international conglomerations. I suppose a distinction can be made between the local investigator conducting matrimonial surveillance, serving documents and covering a smallish geographical area to the corporate investigator who might work as a consultant or practitioner in areas such as security, white collar crime, investigations and missing person enquiries covering continents…

In the Security Industry Authority’s consultation document that assessed the impact of future regulation upon the Uk’s private investigators the size of the UK Private Investigator industry was estimated to be 10,000 strong. The 10,000 figure has been bandied around for many years and is a debatable figure. The largest trade body representing investigators in the UK is the Association of British Investigators who have around 500 members (Including 25 oversees members), with other bodies such as the Institute of Private Investigators, World Association of Detectives, World Association of Private Investigators and a couple of others – the number is not more than 2,000.

If we include investigators in a more general sense, “Investigators in the Private Sector”, the figure will exceed 10,000 – here I mean: Local Authority / Government Investigators (Benefit Agency, trading standards, etc), Investigators in commerce and industry (Store detectives, in house investigators, insolvency practitioners).

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