Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

  • Writing a Sleuth?

    A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths

    "How to Write a Dick is the best work of its kind I’ve ever come across because it covers the whole spectrum in an entertaining style that will appeal to layman and lawmen alike."

    Available on Kindle

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Digging for Dirt: Private Investigators, Databases and Going to the Source

Posted by Writing PIs on August 25, 2013

A smart PI digs for dirt through multiple means

A smart PI digs for dirt through multiple means

It’s interesting how many people think private investigators rely solely on databases for information. I just read an online article where the writer, obviously not a P.I., kicked off her article with the sweeping statement that P.I.s mostly get their information from database searches.

Actually, databases are a starting point for gathering information. The tip of the iceberg, if you will. A smart PI never relies solely on the results from a database search, but verifies that information through additional checks and hands-on research.

Double-Checking Database Search Results

Whenever we run a database search, we always double-check the results before forwarding them to the client.  For example, we do a lot of witness locates for attorneys.  After we (typically) start with a few Internet/proprietary database searches, we’ll double-check whatever information we’ve retrieved (name, address, phone, etc.) with first-hand research (such as running an address in a county assessor’s database).

The last thing a PI wants to do is forward a list of witness names/address to an attorney who then prepares a stack of subpoenas to be served by a certain date…and in the course of serving the papers, the attorney discovers the PI provided incorrect names and old, outdated addresses!

Going to the Source

In our office we have a saying when we want to know the facts:  “Go to the source.”  That means heading to a courthouse, clerk and recorder’s office, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the assessor’s office, or other institutions that house public records.  We typically travel to a courthouse or the DMV several times a week.

“Go to the Source” Tip to Writers: Visit your local courthouse for some real inspiration (when we started our investigative business, Colleen visited courthouses and sat in on random hearings and trials, as a private investigator, to better understand the court system).

law judgeIf a court clerk approaches you, say you’re there as a citizen to observe—you’ll be welcomed to stay because it is your right to watch court proceedings.  Combined with looking at a criminal file or two, you can learn an immeasurable amount in a short period of time–and most probably gather a great deal of material for your fictional efforts.

To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

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