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A Day In The Life Of A Private Investigator



Ever wondered what a private investigator actually does? Is it like the movies, moving around in the shadows, meeting the rich and famous, car chases and shady bribes? Perhaps, it could be that the private investigator is breaking into people’s homes and photographing documents then swiftly off to make happy hour at a dingy bar?



Hollywood has a lot to answer for when it comes to the common perception of the private investigator and of course, little of it bares any resemblance to the life of a real P.I. Whilst there is an element of excitement, a lot of private detective work can be long, lonely and not very glamourous at all.


For the lone Private Investigator, not only will they have all the investigative work to do but also all the business administration that goes along with owning a small agency. There’s inventory, invoicing, marketing, accounting, business development, taxes, website administration, professional development, equipment husbandry and the list goes on – the agency can’t survive unless all this back-end work is kept up to date.


Yeah yeah - but what about the investigation part?

There’s no such thing as a typical day in the world of the Private Investigator, however, to give a flavour of what it can be like, read on…


Our investigator wakes early – he doesn’t know how today is going to pan out, so it makes sense to get a jump on the jobs he’s got to do before he gets swamped. He checks his emails for any work from other agencies that’s come in. Agent to Agent work is not where the money’s at, but it keeps the cashflow rolling and he doesn’t have to deal with the clients directly. As he scans through ‘the list’, where a closed group of investigation agencies post tasks they need help with, he notices two easy jobs that he can get done this morning – simple process serves – delivering legal documents to people who need to respond to the court. Not glamourous, not challenging – but easy enough money not to be ignored. ‘I’ll take those’, he thinks and replies with his costs. Hopefully he’s been quick enough and he’ll secure the work.


He continues scanning ‘the list’, but there’s nothing else on his doorstep – never mind, ‘the list’ will keep ‘pinging’ all day - hopefully there’ll be something else later. He remembers to make sure that his cameras’ batteries are charged along with his all-important phone power- bank. An urgent job could materialise with little time to prepare.


Whilst waiting for the green light on the two jobs, our investigator starts catching up with the jobs he’s been on this last week - making sure all the supporting statements are submitted along with the ever-important invoices. There’s an ongoing case that keeps springing leads – it’s slow going with this one, but he will turn his attention to it later. His client, a respected law firm, has him on retainer for this one – but he still needs to generate results.


‘Ping’ – result! The two jobs are his – the delivery of a claim form on a car dealership and a ‘notice of proceedings at a private residence. It always pays to do a little google map reconnaissance – just to see what sort of neighbourhood he’s walking into and importantly - if there’s anywhere to park.

With his two bundles printed and prepared, he sets off to ensure that they’re delivered quickly so that he can get the statements fired off to the instructing agent. The phone rings. It’s a surveillance job that needs doing at short notice (it’s always short notice) – ‘Can you get there by midday?’, the other agent says. ‘Sure’ says our investigator – this is an easy job in a nice part of town that will pay well – and if he doesn’t take it – some other investigator will.



Finishing off the two deliveries, he turns his focus to the surveillance job. A wealthy Russian woman is staying in an apartment complex downtown and the client needs to know her movements. The instructing solicitor has provided a brief including several photos of the subject. She is blonde and well-groomed, 5’7” and is believed to be at the address for only 24 hours. Probably a matrimonial job and given the part of town, there’s clearly a lot of money at stake. This is booked for 4 hours, but inevitably it will extend…it always does.


He packs light but remembers to his all-important power bank- he will be totally disabled without the mobile phone that seems to run his life. He’ll need it to communicate with the other investigator that’s assigned to this job and to update the client. This is going to be a job on foot and will involve waiting around for the subject to appear. ‘Dress comfily’, he thinks, ‘you’re going to be on your feet for a while’.


Arriving at the location, he meets with the other investigator. They agree that one will watch the main entrance to the building, with the other one will watch the side entrance. There are 5 entrances to the building – but only two of them so they pick the two most likely access points. Our investigator takes the side entrance – luckily there’s a coffee shop next door with outside tables. ‘Excellent…’, he thinks, ‘this provides me with the perfect cover to wait here and blend in.’ It’s not always that convenient he remarks to himself.



Hours pass, the subject doesn’t appear, the investigator waits and the client inevitably extends the job, desperate to get a result – but this time it doesn’t come. Eventually, after 7 hours, the operation is stood down. It’s a shame not to get a result for the client – but the investigators still get paid for their time and after a quick debrief - they make their way home.


But the day’s not done yet. Another serve needs completing – this time on someone who’s being deliberately evasive and in a not-so-flash part of town. Our investigator has already been to the residence twice – it’s a small apartment block of 6 flats. This time, he’s been instructed just to leave the documents at the flat but he will have to gain access through the buzzer controlled front door.


He arrives at the residence – it’s already dark and he’s just avoided the two drunks staggering along the street swearing and shouting. He knows that although the front door will be locked, he needs to get access to the building to be able to deliver the package to flat number 6 – these are confidential documents and cannot be left at the front door. On his second visit, he noticed that the door was old and was ill fitting. He rings number 6 on the keypad – no answer. Plan B. From his inside pocket he produces a slim bit of plastic about the size of regular envelope – putting a bit of pressure on the door, he inserts the plastic into the gap between the frame and the door and feels it push against the locking mechanism. With a swift swipe of the plastic tool, the lock pops and the door opens. Bingo. In.



Before he gets back to his car, he gets a message from another investigator asking if he’s available tomorrow. There’s a slot on a surveillance team in West London. ‘What’s the job?’, he asks. ‘Team of five, dedicated motorcyclist, dedicated Black Cab surveillance vehicle – mobile and foot surveillance to capture covert imagery of the subject’s movements and meetings.’, comes the reply. ‘Roger that,’ he replies, ‘I’ll be there…’


Our investigator has had a busy day – and tomorrow will be full - it’s important to take the work as it comes as next week might be quiet. This means always being ready to engage with a new assignment and being willing to deploy at short notice. It’s an uncertain life with no guarantees, but there’s no two days the same and each case is different. It’s interesting dealing with people from all walks of life, each with their own unique story to tell – and it’s rewarding when there’s a positive result for the client – the reward of a job well-done and an invoice paid on time!


Locard Investigations seeks to help its clients with an array of situations from surveillance, statement taking, discreet enquiries, process serving and litigation support. Contact us for an advisory call on how a private investigator can help you OR if you're thinking about getting into the industry, we'd be delighted to hear from you.


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