Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A blog for PIs and writers/readers of the PI genre

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Win a Box of Mystery Novels (Ends April 13)

Posted by Writing PIs on April 6, 2019

Love mystery novels? Private eye tales? Amateur detective whodunits (AKA cozies)? Enter the Box o’ Mystery Books Giveaway! Most novels are hardcover, from different publishers and writers, either released in 2018 or 2017. Winner can request one genre (such as private eye) or a mix of genres.

When: April 6 – 13, 2019 (ends at midnight April 13)

How to Enter: Click Box o’ Mystery Books Giveaway

The fine print: Your email address will only be used for this giveaway and never shared with others. Follow @writingpis on Twitter for an extra point. Winner will be randomly selected & notified by April 17. No purchase necessary. Must be 18 years old. Due to mailing restrictions, entrants must be residents of U.S. Good luck!

All Rights Reserved by Colleen Collins. Do not copy any content without written permission from the author. Images are licensed by the author, who does not have legal authority to share them with others.

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St. Patrick’s Day: How to Party Without Ending Up in Handcuffs

Posted by Writing PIs on March 17, 2019

Three Leaf Clover

Many think the top holiday for people getting arrested for DUIs is New Year’s Eve. But according to DUI lawyers we work with, the #1 holiday is St. Patrick’s Day, followed by #2 Super Bowl, and #3 New Year’s Eve.

Here’s a bit of history about St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick and Shamrocks

The earliest known written story about Saint Patrick goes back to 1726, although the legend goes back even further. Saint Patrick used the three-leaf shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans, for whom 3 was a significant number. Pagan Ireland also had many triple deities, which aided St. Patrick in his evangelization efforts.

Irish & the Color Green

Green has been associated with Ireland since at least the 1640s, when the Irish Catholic Federation used the green harp flag. Since around the 1680s, shamrocks and green ribbons have been worn by the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, which in 1903 became a national holiday in Ireland.

Although St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a national holiday in North America, it’s a day when people celebrate the Irish culture, which often includes vast amounts of alcohol. Speaking of which, let’s look at the top reasons St. Patrick’s Day partiers get arrested.

NASA photo of Ireland (image is in public domain)

NASA photo of Ireland

Top Three Reasons Partiers End Up in Handcuffs

#1 Drinking and Driving

Here’s a sobering fact: between 2009 and 2013, 276 people died on St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. due to drunken driving accidents (information from TSM, Traffic Safety Marketing). Another sobering statistic: From 2008 through 2012, half of the men killed in crashes on St. Patrick’s Day were drinking and driving (info from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Simple way around this: Don’t Drink and Drive. Go partying with a friend who is the designated driver, travel by taxi, call Lyft or another established driving resource.

#2 Public Intoxication

Although each state has its own definition of public intoxication, below are a few shared elements of the crime:

  • Being visibly drunk or under the influence of drugs while in a public place
  • Appearing to be intoxicated in a public place (that’s right, appearances alone can get you arrested).

#3 Urinating in Public

This includes urinating between parked cars, on walls, even lawns. If you gotta go, then go before you go outside.

Plan Your Ride, Watch Out for Drunk Drivers

A little common sense can ensure you and others have a safe, fun St. Patrick’s Day celebration. From planning your transportation to avoiding drunk drivers, here’s a few suggestions:

Plan How You’re Getting Home Ahead of Time. Be it by taxi, designated driver, public transportation, or one of the numerous sober-drive-home services offered in different cities. For example, here in Denver organizations such as City of Denver, Lyft,  and AAA are providing $13,500 in free Lyft rides on St. Patrick’s Day ($13,500 being the average cost one pays for DUI legal fees and increased insurance costs). For Coloradoans to be eligible for a free ride, the person fills out a form for a free ride credit (click on below image to access the form). Check if your city is doing something similar by visiting your state Department of Transportation, Lyft site, etc.

If You’re Traveling with a Designated Driver, Leave Your Car Keys at Home.

If You See a Drunk Driver on the Road, Call the Police. This could save many people’s lives.

If You See Someone Who’s Drunk Getting Ready to DriveGently take away their keys and help them find a safe way home. Better yet, call a taxi and pay for it upfront.

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the written content requires specific, written authority by the author. All images in this article are in the public domain.

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VPNs: the Good, the Bad, and the Tracking

Posted by Writing PIs on January 4, 2019

We recently hit a glitch with our VPN (Virtual Private Network) and have been looking for a new one. In our research, we discovered some interesting things, such as VPNs that falsely advertise a “no-logging” policy when in fact they do capture (log) some of the users’ personal information, such as IP addresses, websites visited, payment data, and more.

Before we jump into the good, the bad, and the tracking issues, let’s first define a VPN and why it’s wise to use one. Well, a good one.

What’s a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, which is a network within a larger computer network. Key is the word “private.” A user first logs into the VPN, the private network, which then logs into the larger public network. That first private VPN login is meant to protect the user’s personal data.

Typically, VPNs can be accessed (logged into) both within and outside an immediate geographical area. For example, at our agency we can log into our current VPN from the city where our office is located, as well as from other cities when we’re travelling.

How Does a VPN Protect a User?

In a nutshell, VPNs provide an additional layer of encryption protection to the IP (Internet Protocol) communications protocol. Additionally, VPNs “spoof” users’ IP addresses so their actual IP addresses remain private.

About that word private

No-Logging Promises Broken in the Fine Print

Some VPNs promise a “no-logging” policy, but buried—sometimes deeply buried—in their small print are the users’ data they do log. The below diagram, via TheBestVpn, shows the results of their March 2018 research on 118 VPNs and their logging policies.

Read more about VPNs that maintain logs on users in this article by TheBestVpn:26 VPN Providers That Keep 3 or More Alarming Log Files (scroll a short way down page for article).

Whatever features you’re looking for in a VPN, from secure access to speed, a strict no-logging policy should be your top priority.

So What’s the Best VPN?

I’ve been reading different “the best VPN” articles on the internet, which don’t always agree. Or some fail to mention a significant negative point about a VPN. I will say, however, that NordVPN gets consistently high rankings from the articles I’ve read. Also, TheBestVPN ranks ExpressVPN as their #1 choice.

I wasn’t happy with customer support for my current VPN, Private Tunnel, but it gets kudos from different review sites, with one key bonus: they are the lead developers of OpenVPN, the VPN protocol used by today’s top companies. Then I read this about Private Tunnel: “They will also turn over aggregate information to ‘other parties for marketing, advertising, or other uses.’ Those parties won’t be able to get their hands on your individual usage or anything like that. But they might still spam the crap out of you.”

PrivateVPN, based in Sweden, got high marks from a VPNPro article for its strict no-logging policy and for its “impressive customer service.” Unfortunately, another review (TheBestVPN) ran tests that showed PrivateVPN collects users’ IP addresses and cookies, and that based on an in-depth reading of their policy, TheBestVPN surmises that they might sell user data to third parties.

I could go on and on about different VPNs, but for right now I’m leaning toward ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

Best to Worst VPN Comparison Chart

From my readings, TheBestVPN offers the most comprehensive analyses of a wide array of VPNs, including this handy worst-to-best comparison chart with categories such as Leaks Found, Speed, Logging Policy, and more: TheBestVPN.com Comparison Chart.

Related Articles

The Best VPN Services (TheBestVPN – the article link goes to their main home page)

The Best VPN Services for 2019 (CNET)

The 5 Best (Verified) No-Log VPNs – Safest and Cheapest in 2019 (VPNMentor)

10 Best No Logs VPN Providers: Stay as Private as Possible (VPNPro)

 

Have a great weekend, WritingPIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Do not copy or distribute any content without written permission of the author. Images in the public domain are captioned as such; all other images are either copyrighted or licensed by the author, who does not have the legal authority to share with others.

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Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Top 10 Posts in 2018

Posted by Writing PIs on December 28, 2018

As we wrap up 2018, below are our readers’ 10 favorite posts this year. Thank you to everyone who’s dropped by this year as well as preceding years—next year will mark Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’ ten-year anniversary!

Ranking is #1 through #10, with #1 having the most reader views in 2018:

#10 Private Investigators and Murder Cases This was a 2012 guest post by Colleen Collins at crime fiction book reviewer Elizabeth A. White’s blog (renamed Editing by Elizabeth as she now specializes as a story editor).

#9 Investigating Crime Scenes: Police vs. Private Investigators This 2015 post discusses different facets of crime scene investigations, from deception to subjects to cold vs. live crime scenes.

Copyright Lisa Cejka 2018

#8 Female Private Eyes Walked These Mean Streets, Too Some people, including John Semley, who wrote the article “The Death of the Private Eye for the New York Times, seem to think only men have been shamuses in fiction. No, women were dicks, too, going back to 1864 with Mrs. Paschal, commonly viewed as the first female private detective in literature.

#7 National and International Private Investigator Day: History of the Private Eye History of the PI, from Eugene Francois Vidocq, recognized as the first private eye in 1833, to current-day private detectives.

#6 National Cyber Security Awareness Month: A Ransomware True Story and Security Tips A true story about cyber-criminals who hacked into, and took over, a writer’s computer, as well as tips and related articles on cyber security.

#5 Answering a Writer’s Question: Can a Private Investigator Get Romantically Involved with a Client? Seems Sam Spade got amorous with most of the femme fatales who crossed his path. Although there aren’t always legal restrictions, there are often ethical ones to consider in the real world of PIs.

#4: A Tribute to James Garner’s Iconic Private Eye Jim Rockford I originally wrote this post in 2014 after hearing of James Garner’s passing, then updated it the following year. Who didn’t love the cool, droll, anti-hero Jim Rockford, a PI who’d rather go fishing then be sleuthing cases.

James Garner as PI Rockford (R) in photo still from THE ROCKFORD FILES (image is in public domain)

#3: How to Conduct a Trash Hit: A Private Investigator’s Dumpster Secrets: This has been one of our readers’ favorite posts over the years. At our PI agency, we’ve conducted dozens of trash hits. Foraging through trash is like an archeological dig—ya get down and dirty, but what’s uncovered can break a case clean open.

#2 Private vs. Public Investigators: What’s the Difference? Ever since we kicked off Guns, Gams,and Gumshoes in 2009, this post has been readers’ #1, most-read post, every single year…until this year when it got bumped to #2 for…

#1: From Pup to Courthouse Therapy Dog, Part 1 Readers’ favorite post this year was based on our Rottweiler pup, Traveller, who’s on a journey (along with her owners) to one day being a courtroom therapy dog. Article discusses differences between service dogs and therapy dogs; the training and work of a courtroom therapy dog; the story of Rosie, the first courthouse therapy dog in New York; and related links to therapy dog training and certification.

Thank you, readers, for being part of Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes. Here’s to a healthy, happy 2019 for all of us!

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Do not copy or distribute any content without written permission of the author. Images in the public domain are captioned as such; all other images are either copyrighted or licensed by the author, who does not have the legal authority to share with others.

 

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Shamus Awards 2019: Private Eye Writers of America Accepting Submissions

Posted by Writing PIs on December 12, 2018

PRIVATE EYE WRITERS OF AMERICA ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS

FOR 2019 SHAMUS AWARDS

For Works First Published in the U.S. in 2018

Following are the categories for the Private Eye Writers of America 2019 Shamus Awards for private eye novels and short stories first published in the United States in 2018. The awards will be presented in the fall of 2019.

DEADLINE: Submissions must be postmarked by March 31, 2019. No extensions can be given.

Shamus Committees will forward their final lists to the Shamus Awards Chair by May 31, 2019.

ELIGIBILITY: Eligible works must feature as a main character a person paid for investigative work but not employed for that work by a unit of government. These include traditionally licensed private investigators; lawyers and reporters who do their own investigations; and others who function as hired private agents. These do not include law enforcement officers; other government employees; or amateur, uncompensated sleuths (for example, protagonists in cozy mysteries).

Independently published books (Indies) may be submitted to the Best Original Paperback PI Novel category.

SUBMISSIONS: Please send one copy of each eligible work to all members of the appropriate committee. Do not submit a book to more than one committee.

There is no application fee and no submission form, as a simple cover letter will suffice.

For judging committee addresses and questions, please e-mail PWA judging chair Gay Toltl Kinman at gaykinman@gaykinman.com. If you’re unsure which category to submit your work, email Gay Tolti Kinman before submitting.

BEST HARDCOVER PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction published in hardcover in 2018 that is not the author’s first published P.I. novel.

BEST FIRST PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction, in hardcover or paperback, first published in 2018 that is the author’s first published novel featuring a private investigator as a main character.

BEST ORIGINAL PAPERBACK PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction first published as a paperback original in 2018 that is not the author’s first P.I. novel. Paperback reprints of previously published novels are NOT eligible.

BEST PI SHORT STORY: A work of fiction of 20,000 words or fewer.  Stories first published in an earlier year and reprinted in a magazine, anthology or collection in 2018, are not eligible.

2019 SHAMUS Awards Committees

BEST P.I. SHORT STORY COMMITTEE

Terence Faherty, Chair

BEST FIRST P.I. NOVEL COMMITTEE

Colleen Collins, Chair

BEST P.I. NOVEL COMMITTEE

Thomas Donahue, Chair

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL P.I. NOVEL

Brad Parks, Chair

Please do not copy or otherwise distribute any images in this posting as the author does not have legal authority to share these images with others.

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Two Memorable Christmas Cases, Funny to Heartfelt

Posted by Writing PIs on December 4, 2018

As Christmas approaches, we remember two of our favorite investigation stories that occurred during the holidays, from the funny to the heartfelt.

Story #1: Serving Divorce Papers to a Happy Jailer

Several years ago, an angry soon-to-be-ex-wife told her attorney that she wanted divorce papers served on her soon-to-be-ex-husband on Christmas Day. No other day would do. Not Christmas Eve, not the day after Christmas. Had to be Christmas Day. The Happy Holidaysdivorce papers were to be her Christmas gift to the husband whom she had recently learned was keeping a girlfriend on the side.

The attorney contacted us and asked if we’d be willing to fulfill her Christmas wish. After hearing the story, we said yes. The husband was a deputy in a local jail, and was scheduled to work on Christmas Day.

That day, we drove to the jail, politely asked for him, and after he confirmed his identity, we served him the papers.

He read the first page, looked up at us, grinned, then exclaimed, “This might be the best Christmas gift I’ve ever had!”

Story #2: A Young Father Facing Months in Jail

handcuffed hands

One long-ago Christmas Eve, one of the Writing PIs, at the time working as a defense lawyer, went to court for the initial appearance of a young father accused of a restraining order violation on his ex-wife. Without a lower bond, he could lose his job, his home, and miss opportunities to spend time with his sons. The young father was facing up to six months in jail if found guilty on all counts.

The lawyer-half of Writing PIs pointed out to the judge that, at worst, the young man was guilty of contacting his ex-wife so he could obtain a much-needed antibiotic medicine for the youngest son who had a bad ear infection. The judge saw through the ex-wife’s hysterics and false accusations, and set bail at a Christmas Eve bargain of $50 cash.

We were asleep on the night before Christmas when awoken by the beeping of one of our cell phones. The young man had texted that he’d been released from jail and would be spending Christmas with his sons.

We didn’t mind being woken up—it was a terrific way to start Christmas Day.

Happy holidays, Writing PIs

The Zen Man by Colleen Collins

It’s just another ho-ho-hum lawyers’ Christmas party…until one of them is murdered.

Click on above banner to go to The Zen Man Amazon page

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy/distribute any images as they are either copyrighted or licensed by the author, who does not have the legal authority to share with others.

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From Pup to Courthouse Therapy Dog, Part 1

Posted by Writing PIs on November 24, 2018

Today our Rottie pup, Traveller, graduated from her second dog-training course. Afterward the trainer, who also trains therapy dogs, said, “Traveller’s too gregarious to be a service dog, but her friendliness and smarts are perfect for a therapy dog.”

We’ve always anticipated Traveller occasionally working with us on future investigations. After talking to our trainer, we’re now considering having Traveller trained as a therapy dog, too. Not right away as she’s still a pup. The Alliance of Therapy Dogs requires a dog to be at least one year old before starting training.

Service Dogs vs. Therapy Dogs

Service dogs and therapy dogs play two different roles, which are not interchangeable.

Service Dogs

These dogs work as a team with their physically, emotionally, or mentally challenged human partners. They help their person attain safety and independence, such as alerting a hearing-challenged person that a visitor is ringing the doorbell. Service dogs are not for petting as that could prevent the dog from performing its job correctly; in fact, most service dogs have a “no petting” policy established by their owners, with the dog often wearing a label requesting people to not pet the dog.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities so that they can be accompanied by their service dogs in public places such as stores, hotels, and restaurants.

Therapy Dogs

These dogs are even-tempered, gentle, and amiable. Whereas service dogs work as a one-on-one team with their person/handler, therapy dogs provide psychological or physiological therapy to a variety of individuals other than their handlers. It’s all right to pet on-duty therapy dogs, even encouraged by their handlers.

People petting airport therapy dog

Therapy dogs visit places such as schools, airports, rehabilitation centers, courtrooms, and more. Their roles vary depending on people’s needs. For example, therapy dogs might participate in a person’s physical rehabilitation, offer comfort at a hospital, or help encourage a child to read out loud.

Therapy dogs do not have the legal access rights that service dogs have.

Back to our pup Traveller. What kind of therapy dog might she be? Considering we’re legal investigators, makes sense for her to become a courthouse dog.

What Is A Courthouse Dog?

These are specially trained dogs that provide emotional support to people who have suffered physical, psychological or emotional trauma as a result of criminal conduct. For example, a courthouse dog might offer comfort to a sexually abused child while he/she undergoes forensic interviews and testifying in court. These dogs will also greet jurors; offer a soothing presence for vulnerable witnesses; provide a sense of normalcy during emotionally charged court hearings; even cuddle and play with troubled teenagers waiting for hearings.

A courtroom dog might wait outside courtroom doors, ready to comfort witnesses and others (image in public domain)

Courthouse dogs truly become a member of the court as they often visit with court support staff, defense counsel, law enforcement officers and judges during the course of a work day.

Criminal justice professions—such as a deputy prosecutor, law enforcement officer, victim advocate, or as in our case, legal investigator—handle courthouse dogs.

During the Holmes theatre-shooting case here in Colorado, we would see several courthouse dogs waiting outside the courtroom to comfort witnesses, family members, and others.

Next, let’s look at the story of a courthouse dog named Rosie.

Rosie, the First Courthouse Dog in New York State

In 2011, Rosie, an 11-year-old Golden Retriever, had her first day on the job as a courthouse dog. Before a court proceeding began, Rosie met Jessica, a 15-year-old girl who would be testifying in court about being raped.

Rosie and Jessica took the stand before the trial began so the jury wouldn’t see Rosie and possibly be influenced by her presence one way or the other. Throughout her testimony, Jessica petted Rosie — at one point, Jessica removed her shoe and buried her toes in Rosie’s fur. When asked by the prosecutor to point out the man who raped her, Jessica froze. Rosie, sensing Jessica’s distress, laid her head in the girl’s lap to comfort her. After a few moments, Jessica was able to point to the man.

Jessica and Rosie had been visiting each other for three months in preparation for Jessica’s trial date. During that time, the girl and dog had become acquainted by playing together, and Rosie had also learned how to tolerate the tight space of a witness box. Her handler would have Rosie sit in front of a barrier that the handler gradually moved closer to the dog until it mimicked being in a box.

The training paid off. With Rosie’s help, Jessica remained calm during her testimony, and the jury found the defendant guilty.

Therapy Dog Training and Certifying

In the months ahead, we’ll register Traveller for a training class that is a pre-requisite to her entering a therapy dog training course. If Traveller successfully graduates from that class, we’ll next register her in a therapy-dog training program for certification. Last, she’ll work with trainers who specialize in courtroom therapy dogs. We’re waiting for our current dog trainer and her team to finalize their dog-therapy training program here in Colorado (name and links forthcoming).

Below are several AKC-recognized therapy dog organizations that offer training, certification, support, and more:

Alliance of Therapy Dogs

Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc.

Love on a Leash

Therapy Dogs International

 

When Traveller enters the next stage of training, I’ll post “From Pup to Courthouse Therapy Dog, Part 2.”

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Unless an image is noted as being in the public domain, do not copy or distribute images as they are copyrighted. Sections “What Is a Courthouse Dog?” and “Rosie, the First Courthouse Dog in New York State” are excerpts from A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms co-written by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman.

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National Cyber Security Awareness Month: A Ransomware True Story and Security Tips

Posted by Writing PIs on October 3, 2018


October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a good time to review safety measures for protecting our online lives. Unfortunately, it’s not just businesses and online sites that are victimized by cyber-criminals, it can also happen to individuals.

Cyber-Criminals Hacked Into a Writer’s Computer

One Click Opened Her Computer to a Cyber-Criminal (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

One Click and the Cyber-Criminals Gained Control of Her Computer Hard Drive

I have a writer-friend whose computer was hacked a few years ago by cyber-criminals who blocked her access to all the files on her hard drive. A horrible situation as she was nearing the end of finishing a novel and could no longer access any of the book files.

The cyber-criminals demanded a ransom if she wanted access to her files again. Hoping her computer-tech shop could find a way to get her files back, she took in her computer for analysis. Unfortunately, they could do nothing, only verify that her hard drive had been locked by “ransomware.”

Ransom Kept Increasing

Meanwhile, every day the cyber-criminals increased the ransom. With a heavy heart, she paid the ransom, and access to her files was returned. She immediately bought a new computer, a different brand, and her tech-computer shop helped set up her files along with stronger cyber-security.

One Click and the Cyber-Hacker Was In

Cyber-criminals gained access to her computer after she clicked on a single link in an email she thought was sent by a close friend. A reminder to all of us to be cautious about opening links in an email or any other electronic communication. It’s a good idea to first verify with that person (by a phone call, etc.) that they really sent you the link.

Six Tips to Safeguard Your Computer

  1. Maintain updated computer software & apps. Setting up automatic updates is ideal because if you or your webmaster randomly log in to update software/apps, there could be bugs present prior to the update, and bugs = vulnerabilities.
  2. Download from official sites only. There’s a lot of free stuff available for download on the Internet, but you can end up downloading a lot of problems along with that freebie app, program, whatever. Therefore, download from official sites only. It’s also a good idea to be conservative in the number of downloads, too.
  3. Create unique passwords with upper & lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. I know, you’ve probably heard this password warning a gazillion times, but making passwords easy to guess, or using the same password across multiple sites, invites a cyber-criminal to pay a visit. Some people say you shouldn’t use a password manager as some are fraudulent. I don’t use a password manager, nor do I have any idea which ones might be corrupted, so I’ll leave that topic for you to further research.
  4. Cover your computer camera. Seems hackers have taken over people’s computer cameras without their knowledge (with no light indicators alerting the users, either). I can see the reasoning behind this — for example, you’re speaking to someone on your phone about a confidential business manner while you’re at your computer, that dialogue could be captured by cyber-criminals. Even if the audio isn’t captured, the computer user is so close to the camera, lip-reading could be easy. Covering the camera with a piece of tape is easy to do. Then remove the tape when you want to use the camera.
  5. Use encryption software. CNET has an Encryption page with articles about many different facets of encryption, from router settings, to how to use Skype’s end-to-end encryption feature, and more: CNET Encryption
  6. Backups. Regularly back up your files (especially those book files, writers!), and store them offline. (Thanks, @Mededitor)

Additional Resources

Stay Safe Online: Tips for keeping a clean computer, protecting your personal files and more.

Homeland Security: Events, tips and related links for National Cyber Security Awareness Month


All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy/distribute any images – these are licensed by the author, who does not have legal authority to share with others. 

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#BookGiveaway for Guns Gams and Gumshoes 9-Year Blogiversary

Posted by Writing PIs on August 4, 2018

Thank you, readers, for visiting us over the last 9 years! (Actually, the anniversary was June 9, but we have a new pup who keeps us on our toes, so we’re lucky if we remember which day is trash pickup day LOL!)

Traveller, Future Canine Investigator

Since we kicked off Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes in 2009, a lot has happened, from Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes being tapped twice by the American Library Association’s Booklist site as its “Web Crush of the Week” during Mystery Month, to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine naming the site as one of the top three true crime blogs, to our writing a handful of nonfiction books about private investigations and the law.

We’ve also accrued some interest for being a husband-wife PI team: we were the cover story for Westword magazine (The Plot Thickens: In the Case of These Husband-and-Wife Private Eyes, Truth is More Fun than Fiction), and NPR broadcast an interview with us.

Blogiversary Book Giveaway

*** Contest is now closed.*** Congrats to the winners! Thank you, everyone, who entered the giveaway.

To celebrate our 9-year blogiversary, we’re giving away 9 copies of How Do Private Eyes Do That?, a nonfiction book written by Colleen Collins.

Contest Is Closed – Congrats to the Winners!

“A must-have for any writer serious about crafting authentic private eyes. Collins knows her stuff.” ~Lori Wilde, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

  • Amazon Requirements for participation:
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia

It’s an Amazon ebook, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Amazon provides a free, easy-to-download app that makes the book readable on a variety of platforms, from your browser to your computer (PC or MAC), even your smartphone.

Giveaway ends the earlier of Aug 10, 2018 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. No purchase necessary.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

Posted in Canine Investigator, Defense Investigations, HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT? Second Edition Aug 2016, Nonfiction Books on Private Investigations | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on #BookGiveaway for Guns Gams and Gumshoes 9-Year Blogiversary

National and International Private Investigator Day: History of the Private Eye

Posted by Writing PIs on July 24, 2018

Eugene Francois Vidocq, recognized as the first P.I.

Eugene Francois Vidocq, b. July 24, 1775

National and International Private Investigator Day is July 24, also the birthdate of Eugene Francois Vidocq, recognized as the first private eye.

Vidocq Introduced Criminal Investigation Techniques

In 1833 Eugene Francois Vidocq, a French ex-criminal, founded one of the first private detective agencies, Le bureau des renseignments (Office of Intelligence) where he oversaw the work of other detectives, many ex-criminals such as himself.  He is credited with having introduced record-keeping, criminology, and ballistics to criminal investigation.  He also created indelible ink and unalterable bond paper with his printing company. Apparently, he had an altruistic bent as he claimed he never informed on anyone who had stolen for real need.

With Vidocq, the private investigator was born.  As the industry evolved, clients often hired PIs to act in law enforcement capacities, especially in matters for which they were not equipped or willing to do. This led to PI agencies sometimes performing like private militia and assisting companies in labor disputes.

Pinkerton National Detective Agency

Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 25, 1819, and emigrated to the United States in 1842, where he founded a barrel-making shop in Dundee, forty miles outside Chicago. As an abolitionist, he set up his shop to also be a station for slaves escaping via the “underground railroad” for freedom in the northern states. After his work helping bust up a counterfeit ring, the Cook County sheriff offered Pinkerton a job as an investigator in Chicago. Within a few years, he accumulated more arrests for burglaries and murders than any of the other police officers within the department. He also gained a reputation for being fearless, having an iron-clad integrity and the ability to quickly read people.

Pinkertons’ Ops’ Ethics

In 1850, Allan Pinkerton established the Pinkerton National Detective Agency at 151 Fifth Avenue in the heart of Chicago.  In an era with many law enforcement personnel openly associating with criminals sharing their illegal profits, Pinkerton stood out by promising that his agents would not only produce results, but always act with the highest ethics.   He promised to:

  • Accept no bribes
  • Never compromise with criminals;
  • Partner with local law enforcement agencies, when necessary
  • Refuse divorce cases or cases that initiated scandals of clients
  • Turn down reward money (his agents were paid well)
  • Never raise fees without the client’s pre-knowledge, and
  • Apprise clients on an ongoing basis.

It’s remarkable how many of the above ethical standards are mirrored in many PIs’ standards today (such as regularly apprising clients, partnering with law enforcement, and raising fees only with clients’ knowledge).  It’s also amusing to read how Pinkerton’s men refused divorce cases considering today many PIs specialize in marital investigations.

A Master at Marketing

Besides being an outstanding investigator, Pinkerton was also a master promoter of his agency. He made sure news of his investigators’ successes at catching murderers and thieves became newspaper stories. He also crafted a logo, an eye surrounded with the words “We Never Sleep,” the motto of his agency, and posted it in magazines, circulars, newspapers, billboards, and even wanted posters.

In 1856, Pinkerton hired Kate Warne as his first female investigator, which was highly unusual at the time. According to the Pinkerton website, police departments did not hire women to join their ranks until 1891, nor did they get promoted to be investigators until 1903.

Kate Warne: First Female U.S. Private Eye

There is little biographical information known about Kate Warne, although some sources claim she was born in 1833 in New York, and was a widow with no children. Allan Pinkerton described her as a slender, brown-haired woman who, in 1856, responded to an ad for detectives at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Pinkerton presumed she was there to inquire about a clerical job. Later, he said that she demanded to be a private detective, and that he eventually hired her for that role on August 23, 1856. By 1860, Pinkerton had hired several more women to be detectives, calling them his “Female Detective Bureau” which was supervised by Warne.

Dead Ends While Researching Warne

Possible sketch of Kate Warne

Possible sketch of Kate Warne

Lynn H. Levy, owner and president of L.H. Levy Investigations, Inc., in Baltimore is currently writing a book about ten female investigators, including Kate Warne. In her research, Levy dug through 72 boxes in the Pinkerton archives at the Library of Congress, but due to a fire at the Pinkerton offices years before (likely the result of the Chicago fire in 1871), there was very little information about the agency in the 1850s.

In her further research on Kate Warne, Levy said, “I read every book published about Pinkerton, and there was enough information to get a full chapter about Kate. I found a few drawings of her and some photos that they believed were of her, but we don’t really know. She was born in New York and I’ve been trying to find out anything I can from sources there. They’re not even sure that was her last name. Up until she walked into Pinkerton’s office, there’s very little written about her.”

 Warne’s Most Famous Case

In 1861, Kate Warne helped foil an assassination attempt on President-elect Abraham Lincoln on his travels to Washington, D.C. for his inauguration. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s article “Saving Mr. Lincoln,” Warne accompanied Pinkerton and four other operatives from his agency to Baltimore where Pinkerton had heard a plot to assassinate Lincoln would take place. According to other sources, she both helped to coordinate the operatives as well as to devise a strategy for getting Lincoln safely from Baltimore to Washington, D.C.

Warne and Pinkerton’s Relationship

Pinkerton’s brother Robert wasn’t happy with Kate Warne’s agency expenses as he believed they included funds his brother diverted for gifts and travels with Kate as his mistress. Pinkerton never confirmed such a relationship. Nor is there any documentation written by Kate, not even a letter, to offer any of her insights about her life.

In 1868, Kate fell ill, and Pinkerton stayed by her side, nursing her, until she died. Some say she suffered from pneumonia and that her death was sudden, other sources say it was a lengthy, painful illness that is unknown.

Pinkerton had her buried in his family plot at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, with a spot reserved next to her for him when he died. In his will decades later, he dictated that Kate’s plot was never to be sold. They remain buried next to each other to this day.

Current-Day Private Investigators

By the 1920s, due to the expanding middle class in America, the private investigator became better known to the average citizen. Since then, the PI industry has continued to grow as it fills the needs of the public (who retain PIs to work on cases like infidelity, fraud, and criminal defense investigations). Licensing requirements, with criteria a PI must meet, have also been regulated in most states in the U.S.

Additionally, professional organizations (regional, national, and international) combined with good business practices have cast the PI career in a more respected light versus its outdated, fictional reputation as the wrinkled trench coat, fallen-from-grace Sam Spade figure found in books and film.


 

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority. 

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