Private Investigator Training in Virginia

A new batch of potential P.I.s arrived in for training at the headquarters of SEXTON yesterday morning.

During the first day of training, students learned about the Governmental body which regulates private security in the Commonwealth of Virginia; the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

They also learned about laws governing covert surveillance and voice recording, stalking, GPS tracking devices, interviewing and interrogation, how to open a P.I. firm and the licensing. That all in the first day!

Today, students are receiving a lecture from a court officer on the judicial system, how to properly testify, accompanying a client to obtain a restraining order from the Magistrate, etc.

I would say look out for the new graduates…..but after the top tier training they receive this week, you won’t know who they are!

Not all convicted felons are sex offenders

This week’s blog which asked the question; “would you hire a convicted felon”, received so many comments that we decided to do a follow-up blog instead of answering each comment individually.

The first thing that stood out, was that all of the comments revolved around sex offenders. That was unusual since the theme of the blog was not about sex offenders, but advising would-be employers to be careful about pre-judging job seekers.

It would appear that the topic of sex offenders is one which requires additional attention. I would like to mention at this time, that due to the one-sided nature of most of the comments, it would appear as if most, maybe all of those making the comments had either been convicted of a sex crime in their past, or were closely connected to someone who had.

So then, what did we say that caused so many feathers to be ruffled? It would appear that much of what was written was taken out of context. Nearly all of the comments spoke to the nature of the sex offender’s crime. It should have already been very clear, I was not investigating this guy, therefore I do not know what his exact charges related to, other than being a sex crime.

Unlike those of you who commented though, I would not automatically jump to conclusions that it was “mere mooning” or a “he said, she said” situation. Do those of you making these comments really believe that all sex offenders are guilty of nothing more than a “technicality”?

By the same token, do you succumb to the notion that nobody in jail is actually guilty of any wrong doing? Who do you think commits bank robberies and murders, or rapes and child molestations?

If you believe that you got a raw deal, by all means discuss it. By all means, educate the readers. I am sure that the greater majority of people do not realize that one can be convicted of a sex crime for mooning a urinating in public. Use the forum to enlighten.

If, on the other hand, your purpose is to get people to feel sorry for you, then you are doing yourself and the readers a grave diservice. Know that we will publish your comments and reply to them openly. We are not afraid of controversy and do not have to worry about satisfying an Editor’s demands or pissing off our advertisers.

Speaking of replying to comments, those of you who claimed that I was using sex offenders to promote my business are giving way too much credit to the power of blogs. For the record, I have not done any business relating to sex offenders since the last blog was published. If I had, I would state that I had done so without hesitation.

It is the nature of business to engage in self-promotion. Ever heard of a car dealer running ads on television and in newspapers? If we “drum up” business as a result of a blog, that is considered a bonus. It is not however, the main purpose of writing. I write to educate and inform.

There are over three hundred blogs here. Take a look through them and you will see that they give people tips and information on how to safeguard themselves, protect their employees, business and other assets. You will also see that we give professional advice to investigators and bodyguards.

To the person who wrote that I was riding the sex offender gravy train….is there really such a train? I will say that some of your comments did have some merit. For instance, the person who said that the employer would not fire this sex offender based on heresay – yes I agree, nor should they fire him based on rumors alone.

As for the person who doubted that the sex offender said anything inappropriate – what planet are you from? Are you the same one who thinks that jails are bursting at the seams with innocent people? The fact that some of his female colleagues are afraid to step forward and drop a dime on him, does not make him innocent – it just shows that they are afraid.

Most of you making these comments should not be surprised that they have not stepped forward. Didn’t you step behind the veil of annonymity to voice your opinion?

The next time, think about how you can state your case in a fair and balanced manner. I’d also advise you to read and understand what was written before rushing to comment.

You just might find that people will be more inclined to see your point of view if you are capable of seeing theirs.

How does your resume measure up?

I have written about the importance of resumes and cover letters before.

Unfortunately, we still receive countless resumes from people who should be reading these pointers. If you have the time to send out resumes, especially unsolicited resumes, you should also have the time to compose a decent cover letter.

There is no excuse for sending someone a blank e-mail without even bothering to put anything into the subject line. As an employer, I can promise you that the quality of resumes we are receiving are getting better by the day. You can thank the economy for that.

It is not just happening in the U.S. The Washington Post last Sunday ran an article about the how hard the financial crisis is hitting the middle classs in Ireland. For those who were unaware, the Irish economy has been shooting through the roof this past decade or more. It was even christened the “Celtic Tiger Economy”.

That is not the story any longer however. An unbuilt McDonald’s over there has already stopped taking resumes for its 50 positions after receiving 500 resumes. That is not the remarkable part though.

The resumes had been submitted from bankers, accountants and architects. We are not even advertising Investigator or Executive Protection positions available, yet we are receiving resumes from people with Post Graduate degrees.

For those who know how to properly submit a resume and cover letter and who are waiting to be called for an interview, visit and read the pointers that our friend Hucky gives for interview success.

To the rest of you; do you still feel comfortable sending out those coverless resumes that leave a potential employer scratching their head as to what you want? I hope not. You should be doing your utmost to answer every company’s main question; “What can you do for us?”

What is the best way to find a P.I.?

Where would you find a good P.I.? Should you even settle for good? Wouldn’t it make more sense to find a great one? Investigation news gave some useful pointers in their editorial yesterday.

I decided to write about this after seeing a request on a local listserve. I wrote and advised the person that it would be difficult to judge the quality of the investigator by such a general posting. To my amazement, the reply came back; “I know…some time I just post the job, close my eyes and hope for the best”.

Hope for the best? Surely nobody would say such a thing to their client when they are getting that retainer. I can understand “hoping” for the weekend to be dry if you are having a picnic, or “hoping” that your football team wins the game on Sunday…but “hoping” an investigator does a decent job?

One of the better and more professional way to find a reputable investigator or investigaive agency, is to contact a local State association such as PIAVA (, or an international association such as the Council of International Investigators ( Members of these associations have not only been carefully vetted, but they are held accountable since their professional reputations are riding on every assignment.

Good investigators can help your attorny win that child custody case, save the company from a false suit by an unethical employee claiming a make believe injury, help you find the fraudster that ran off with the company’s clients or funds and many other useful tasks. A bad one can take your money and give you next to nothing in return.

Please make sure you only ever hire the good ones.

Why you nearly need a P.I. to help you hire a private investigator

So, you need a private investigator to help you catch your cheating spouse, or to work undercover in your business to find out who has been stealing or to follow the employee who is claiming workman’s comp, but you’ve heard he plays golf every weekend. What are you to do?

The first thing I would tell you is NOT to go to the yellow pages and pick out 5 phone numbers and ask how much they charge an hour. Hourly charges mean nothing. Think about it, how many of us would call up a doctor or dentist’s office and ask how much they charge an hour? Not to compare investigators with the medical profession, but your first priority should be: are they qualified to do the job?

This is the information age. You can research anything you want in mere seconds, without leaving the comfort of your own home. If you are looking for a private investigator in Washington D.C., or San Francisco, go to one of the main search engines and bring up all of the investigators located within a 30 – 50 mile radius. Do not worry if they are a little further away. Eventhough they will all charge you mileage, the more professional companies will have investigators spread out around the State or city in which they operate.

This is where you need to think like an investigator yourself and it doesn’t matter if you are the CFO of a $100 million dollar corporation or a stay-at-home mom. Her are some points you should seriously consider:
• Do they have a website
• Do they list a physical address
• Does their website list everything out clearly and concisely or do you feel more confused after reading it for five minutes
• Do they belong to reputable associations, both local and national
• Do they accept major credit cards
• Are they known for anything else – published books, white papers, speaking engagements, seminars, etc.

In 2008, there is absolutely no reason why a company would be without a website. A website “under construction” is nearly as bad. Several years ago it could be chalked up to cost. Smaller companies could not afford to pay many thousands for a site but these days you can have a website up and running in days for a couple hundred dollars.

A company who does not have a website, for the most part, is a company who is either not legal and must “fly under the radar”, or who is not making enough money to spend on one. If you hire a) an illegal company, you yourself could wind up being sued and if you hire b) the company who nobody else is hiring, you’ll soon find out why – but not before you have wasted your hard-earned money.

Any legitimate security company needs to let people know who they are and what they do. In order to achieve this, they belong to professional associations – local, national and even international. International associations are a good indicator that this firm is held in such a high regard that they command the respect of investigators around the world. Examples of international associations are: The Council of International Investigators (, INTELNET and the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF).

Once again, do not be fooled because a security person tells you their company does international work or because he calls the company “Smith Worldwide Protection”. Ask for references. Most of the time, clients need to remain confidential, so ask for the name of the Chamber of Commerce to which they belong. Call up the Chamber, or the investigation association or the State Agency where they say they are licensed and ask if they are: 1) known, 2) currently licensed and insured and 3) have any complaints filed/received any disciplinary action.

Remember, the best source will always be a personal referral. Failing that, decide after you have done a little bit of research. ALWAYS ask to see their investigator’s license or registration AND a copy of their insurance certificate. If they can not show you insurance, walk away or close the door. If I am hiring a plumber or carpenter or electrician, I will always ask for their insurance. If they do not have it and anything goes wrong, what will be your recourse? Even if you are hiring a security guard for your business – make sure that guard’s company provides a copy of insurance.

I would even go as far to say make sure that they just don’t have minimum coverage. Even though the Department of Criminal Justice mandates that security companies in Virginia only need $100,000 worth of coverage, we voluntarily carry liability insurance of $5 million. We do this to better protect our clients. If a person ever sues, they are probably going to go for millions, not thousands.

If the security company you hire only carries the minimum $100,000 and a customer is suing for $1 million, who do you think they are going to go after? You of course. On the other hand, had the security company carried a higher amount of liability insurance, they could have just sued the security company.

There will not be a huge difference in price wherever you are. In the Washington D.C. area, prices vary from around $100 – $150 per hour. It is normal to want the best deal that can be had and nearly everybody likes to save money. However, if you wind up hiring an inexperienced company who nobody has heard of and who uses young inexperienced people to conduct the investigations, then the money that you thought you were “saving” could turn out to be a total waste.

Here is an example: Company “A” is run by a young ex-soldier who joined the army at 18 and separated from the military after four years of service. He was a corporal and after he got out, he went to work for a local security company for a couple of years as a supervisor visiting buildings where other guards stood on post.

According to the State regulations, he could be granted a security business license based on having three years of supervisory security experience. He can not afford to hire anyone else so he went to a training school for one week and became registered as a private investigator.

Company “B” is run by a retired Police Detective with 15 years experience investigating homicides, five years in the transportation unit where he specialized in vehicular manslaughter investigations and is a court certified expert in accident reconstruction and cold-case murders. He too owns his own company and employees a retired F.B.I. agent and three former detectives with decades of experience in white-collar crime, gang activities, narcotic trafficking and sexual predators.

They both ask for a retainer of $1500.00 (retainers are usually $1500 – $3,000, depending on the length of time your case is estimated to take). You choose company “A” because they tell you that they charge $95.00 an hour while company “B” charges $145.00. However, after attempting to follow a subject for four days and losing them for the first three days and getting caught by the person they are following, Company “A” is forced to drop out or else you fire them (most likely ending). You can not even hand the case over to another company as the person you had followed knows he is being watched.

Company “A” then gives you an invoice for $20.00, since his botched attempts took 16 hours, which at the “bargain rate” of $95.00 per hour, totals $1520.00. Even if you refuse to pay the additional $20.00, you are out $1500.00 with nothing to show for it. Most probably the more exspensive company, “B”, would have accomplished the goal in about 2 days, at 5 hours a day, costing you $1450. With company “B” you would have had a professional product/service and had an investigator capable of testifying in court to support your case if that was subsequently needed.

The motto is: Beware of false bargains, for at the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Good luck with your search and don’t rush into it.