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

  • Copyright Notices

    All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content on this site (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Any violations of this reservation will result in legal action.

    It has come to our attention that people are illegally copying and using the black and white private eye at a keyboard image that is used on our site. NOTE: This image is protected by copyright, property of Colleen Collins.

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No Cease and Desist Letters: Four Copyright-Free Image Sites

Posted by Writing PIs on June 30, 2015

Image in public domain, courtesy of Ryan McGuire

Image in public domain, courtesy of Ryan McGuire

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Or in this case, free professional high-resolution photos and images. No need to copy images off the Internet, risking violating copyrights and receiving nasty cease & desist letters from lawyers – instead check out these four sites that offer gorgeous stuff for free downloads, all copyright-free.

Some indie writers use sites such as iStockPhoto, which offers royalty-free, professional high-resolution graphics, illustrations and images for a fee, but some of the more popular images show up over and over on indie book covers. What’s great about the below sites is the images are unique, with some offering new, free images every week or so via an email subscription.

Unsplash

road leading to castle

This is one of our current favorites. Stunning photos, many of landscapes, that can be modified in any way you want, including for commercial use, no attribution required. Sign-up for new images, sent weekly to your inbox.

Link: Unsplash

Gratisography

womens legs laundromatfeet shoes street fuzzy slippers

We have one word for this site: Fun! All photographs by Ryan McGuire, who calls himself a “whimsically creative visual artist.” All images are copyright-free for you to use on any project, personal or commercial, and he doesn’t require an attribution, although he wouldn’t mind if you did it anyway (a simple “Photo by Ryan McGuire” does the trick). Email sign-up for his new, copyright-free images.

Link: Gratisography

Little Visuals

old doorbell blue doorold brownie camera

Sadly, this photographer, a young man named Nic, died suddenly in November 2013. He offered his photos copyright-free for anyone to download for personal and/or commercial uses. His family has posted a note explaining that Nic died from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS), and asks those who are downloading Nic’s images to consider giving to the Hand on the Heart charity (link provided).

Link: Little Visuals

Life of Pix

2015-06-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-night-grass-stars-jordanmcqueen2015-06-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-arm-black-white-wheat-santalla

High-resolution photos without copyright restrictions, courtesy of an advertising agency in Montreal (Leeroy Advertising Agency). No attribution required. They also offer an email subscription for weekly copyright-free images.

Link: Life of Pix

Have a great week, Writing PIs

All images in this post are in the public domain. All rights reserved for written content.

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#WriteTip Answering Writer’s Question: Insurance Fraud Investigators

Posted by Writing PIs on June 20, 2015

Writer’s Question: In insurance fraud investigations, would an investigator work directly for the insurance carrier or a firm representing them?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Insurance fraud is often contracted through the special investigations unit, or SIU, which is a group of specialized insurance adjustors and in-house investigators for an insurance company.  These in-house investigators aren’t investigators in the purest sense of the word — they instead manage other SIU employees, outside contract investigators and attorneys (in other words, they are more managers than investigators). The reason being that insurance companies don’t want to be seen as conducting investigations that might result in the denial of their policy holders’ claims. This potential conflict of interest gives rise to the need to hire outside private investigators or investigative agencies.

Private investigators in this type of work need to have experience in insurance coverage, adjusting matters, as well as other general investigative skills. Such a PI could be hired by either the SIU, in-house counsel at the insurance company, or a private attorney who has been retained by an insurance company. Who does the hiring of a private investigator is a function of whether or not the case is in litigation or claim status.

We know a former expert insurance adjustor who left the insurance business to open his own insurance fraud investigations agency (representing bad faith insurance claimants).  He’s made a lucrative business of this because he so well understands the inner workings of insurance companies.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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Celebrate Our 6-Year Blogiversary With a FREE Book on Private Investigations

Posted by Writing PIs on June 7, 2015

happy-birthday-picture

Guns, Gams and Gumshoes turns 6 years old on June 9! To celebrate, we’re giving away our nonfiction book How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths. It is FREE on June 8, 9 and 10.

To get your free Kindle book, click on the below book cover or click here.

FREE june 8, 9 & 10

Free june 8 – 10

“If you want authenticity in creating a fictional private investigator for your stories, then this is a must-have reference book. Its authors, Colleen and Shaun, are living breathing PIs with years of actual experience in the PI game.” ~ R.T. Lawton, 25 years on the street as a federal special agent and author of multiple series in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

Note from authors: As our investigations business only operates within the United States, this book is more helpful to those writing U.S. private eye characters. However, there are other topics that are universally applied and useful worldwide, such as the history of the PIs, equipping a PI business, finding people, conducting trash hits, handling surveillances, how a fictional PI might work with a crime scene, homicide or DNA gathering and analysis, culling tips from our answers to writers’ questions, and the Gumshoe Glossary.

vintage writer at old typewriter

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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Private Eye Writers of America 2015 Shamus Award Finalists

Posted by Writing PIs on June 4, 2015

cover ebook  2000px longest side

The Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) organization was founded in 1981 by Robert J. Randisi, who created the Shamus Award that acknowledges outstanding stories in the private eye genre. Check out the below books & short stories for some great private eye reads.

Congratulations to the 2015 Shamus Award finalists!


PRIVATE EYE WRITERS OF AMERICA SHAMUS AWARD FINALISTS 2015 for works published in 2014. (The lists below are in alphabetical order by author.)

The winners will be announced at the PWA Banquet at Bouchercon in Raleigh, North Carolina on Friday, October 9, 2015.

BEST HARDCOVER P.I. NOVELfedora black and white

The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Toyko Kill by Barry Lancet
Hounded by David Rosenfelt
Peter Pan Must Die by John Verdon

BEST FIRST P.I. NOVEL

Invisible City by Julia Dahl
Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie
Last of the Independents by Sam Wiebe
Wink of an Eye by Lynn Chandler Willis
City of Brick and Shadow by Tim Wirkus

BEST ORIGINAL PAPERBACK P.I. NOVEL

The Detective and the Pipe Girl by Michael Craven
Beauty With A Bomb by M.C.Grant
Critical Damage by Robert K. Lewis
Street Justice by Kris Nelscott
Moonlight Weeps by Vincent Zandri

BEST P.I. SHORT STORY

“Clear Recent History” by Gon Ben Ari in Tel Aviv Noir
“The Ehrengraf Fandango ” by Lawrence Block in Defender of the Innocent
“Fear Is The Best Keeper of Secrets ” by Vali Khalili in Tehran Noir
“Mei Kwei, I Love You” by Suchen Christine Lim in Singapore Noir
“Busting Red Heads” by Richard Helms in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

BEST INDIE P.I. NOVEL

The Shadow Broker by Trace Conger
Nobody’s Child by Libby Fischer Hellmann
Played To Death by BV Lawson
The Kids Are All Right by Steve Liskow
Get Busy Dying by Ben Rehder

With many thanks to judges Dorothy Rellas, Colleen Collins, Andrew S. McAleer, S.J. Rozan, Clive Rosengren, M. Ruth Myers. Fred Zackel, Brad Parks, Douglas Corleone, Tim Wohlforth, Jack Fredrickson, BethTerrell, Charle Ardai, Amanda Kyle Williams and Baron Birtcher.

Gay Toltl Kinman, Chair

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Private vs. Public Investigators: What’s the Difference?

Posted by Writing PIs on June 2, 2015

fedora black and white

Since we kicked off Guns, Gams and Gumshoes in June 2009, this post has remained readers’ #1 favorite year after year. It might seem to be a simple question, but there are all kinds of government (meaning public) investigators — from police detectives to coroner office investigators to FBI agents — as well as different kinds of private investigators, including newspaper reporters, insurance investigators, skip tracers and more.

Also, there are “amateur sleuths” in some mystery stories, which are not private investigators as amateur sleuths do not accept money for their investigative services. To read more about private investigators in fiction, check out the Private Eye Writers of America website.

So now let’s answer the question:

Private vs. Public Investigators: What’s the Difference?surveillance female hanging out of car with camera

What’s with the word “private”?  Without being glib, it’s the opposite of “public.”   Police officers and government agents are public investigators.  There are differences between private investigators and public investigators, such as:

  • Private investigators do not have ready access to privileged government information about most of us nor do they always share investigative leads and similar intelligence with other investigators.
  • A private investigator’s job status alone does not imbue her with an ability to carry firearms.
  • Private investigators pay for their own equipment, some of which can get quite expensive (such as radios, computers, still/video cameras, automobiles, etc.).  Public-sector investigators (police, etc.) do not pay from their pockets for such equipment.

Why Pursue a Career as a PI?

So why become a private investigator when public ones get better access to information and free tools? For starters, it’s always appealing to be your own boss. If you’re writing a private detective story, keep in mind that as in any well-run business, your sleuth character will need to be good with details, legalities, watching the bottom line (or hire someone to help him/her with it).

Also, a private investigator’s work is challenging, exciting, sometimes downright fun.  Robert Scott, PI and author, sums up the private investigator’s life in The Investigator’s Little Black Book 3 with these words: “It’s a front row seat to the Greatest Show on Earth.” That’s because a PI has a front row seat on life and its constantly revolving characters and life situations — many just as entertaining, if not more so, than you’ll ever see in movies or on TV.  What a rich vantage point for your own fictional PI.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths by Colleen Collins & Shaun Kaufman 

Click on book cover to go to Amazon page

Posted in Public vs Private Investigators | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Memorial Day History: Honor Them with Words and Deeds

Posted by Writing PIs on May 23, 2015

My father (center), 1945 Honolulu

This picture sat on my father’s desk for as long as I can remember. I always thought he looked like a movie star in the photo — in fact, the picture reminded me of a still from a black and white movie. On that sunny day in Honolulu, my dad and his two good friends were getting ready to head back out on battleships to the South Pacific. Unfortunately, his friends’ ship sank during battle weeks later, and Dad was the only one to return home after the war.

Dad returned to his college studies, fell in love and married my mom, became a father to her two girls, then three when I came along. Eventually all of us moved to California where he pursued a career in education.

Whenever I visited my parents, I spent hours in my dad’s office. I loved looking through his history books, the notes he left to himself on his daily calendar, the mementoes scattered through the room, the paintings by my mother on the walls, and this photo of Dad and his two friends that always sat framed on his desk.

After he died, I asked for that photo. It’s one of my prize possessions and I keep it where I can always see it. I think Dad would have liked that.

Memorial Day History

Originally, Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day” in the South for Confederate Soldiers Who Had Died in Battle

Memorial Day was first enacted to honor Union soldiers after the Civil War, and was expanded after WWI. Although initially the day was called different names, such as Decoration Day in the South (for the Confederate soldiers who had given their lives), the term “Memorial Day” was first used in 1882, and became commonly used after WWII. It was declared the official name by federal law in 1967.

In our business, we have at times researched WWII histories, so I’ll share some of those links below.

WWII Research Links

Research WWII military records.  You can search, for free, military personnel and service records at the U.S. National Archives. Searches include casualty lists, pictures, and other WW II records. To research WW II records, click here.

From the Internet Archive: Pamphlet on Mediterranean Theater of Operations & the Middle East

WWII Archive (Internet Archive): A collection of public domain WWII books, news, broadcasts, old time radio, training films and more. Curated by a librarian.

WWII Forums. This community forum provides free resources for reading and researching WWII, with topics including first-hand accounts by veterans, WWII obituaries and more.

Finding Information on Personal Participation in WWII.  This online document, provided by the National Archives and Records Administration, contains tips for researching military records relevant to those with personal participation in WWII.

Other Wars: National Archives’ Research Links

Click on link for documents in that category:

Civil War

Vietnam War

US Army troops on break during Vietnam War

US Army troops on break during Vietnam War

Korean War

War of 1812

Military Service Records

Although all military service records were once sent to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) which is under the jurisdiction of the National Archives and Records Administration, only the Coast Guard now sends their records there. Address The National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63132, fax: 314-801-9195.

The Navy stopped sending veterans’ records to NPRC in 1995. For Navy personnel discharged after 1994, those records are now sent to NAVPERSCOM in Millington, TN (1-866-827-5672).

The Marines stopped sending records to NPRC  in 1997, and they are now sent to Quantico.

The Army stopped sending records to NPRC in 2002, and they are now sent to the Army Human Resources Command in St. Louis.

The Air Force stopped sending records to NPRC in 2004, and they are now sent to Randolph AFB, TX.

Memorial Day – More than BBQs and Fireworks (Internet Archive blog)

B-17 Flight Evokes Images About What WWII Missions Were Like (b-townblog.com)

10 Historical Facts About Memorial Day (USA Today)

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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What Happens When a Person Is Arrested and Charged in a Criminal Case?

Posted by Writing PIs on May 21, 2015

handcuffed hands

This material is from our recently released second edition of our nonfiction book A LAWYER’S PRIMER FOR WRITERS: FROM CRIMES TO COURTROOMS. This new edition includes images, additional resource links and other material. All Rights Reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman.


Book Excerpt: Arrests and Charges in a Criminal Case

Let’s look at the events surrounding a person being arrested and charged, depending on whether it’s a federal offense or a lower jurisdiction crime.

Arrests for Federal Crimes

If a person is arrested and charged with a federal crime by law enforcement, the accused goes to either a federal detention center or a local jail. Otherwise, a US attorney for a federal district seeks an indictment from a grand jury who, after reviewing evidence and testimony, decides whether or not there is sufficient evidence to proceed with prosecution. If there is not sufficient evidence, the case is dismissed. If an indictment is issued, the US attorney requests an   arrest warrant   from a judge, and the defendant can either surrender or be arrested by the US Marshals Service.

Let’s take a moment and discuss probable cause.

Probable Cause

police searching trunk of car

If a Drug Dog Alerts During Appropriate Duration of a Stop, Police Have Probable Cause to Search

This is the requirement, found in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, that must usually be met before police can:

  • Make an arrest
  • Conduct a search
  • Obtain a warrant.

Courts typically find probable cause when there is a reasonable basis for believing that a crime might have been committed (and therefore the arrest was necessary), and that evidence of the crime is present in the place to be searched.

It’s important to note that just because someone is indicted does not mean he or she is guilty of any crime. The grand jury process is simply a means of charging someone with a crime, and the grand jury’s decisions are based merely on probable cause.

FBI Special Agent

Tip for Writers: The FBI is willing to help writers accurately portray how their agents conduct arrests, among other procedures. Their guidelines and contact information is on this page: Working with the FBI: A Guide for Writers, Authors, and Producers

Arrests for Non-Federal Crimes

After a person is arrested, he or she is booked at a police station where they are photographed and fingerprinted, and their personal property is taken and stored. Each person is allowed to make one phone call before being put into a jail cell. Just as you’ve probably seen in the movies or read in stories, that one call is often to a lawyer.

Taken Into Custody Without a Warrant

When a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that one or more misdemeanors or felonies were committed, or if a crime was committed in the officer’s presence, the officer can immediately arrest a suspect without an arrest warrant.

The officer then takes the accused person into custody, which means the person is now being guarded by that law enforcement agency. The officer will next submit a warrant request, sometimes called a charging request, to a prosecuting attorney that suggests the potential charges to be authorized.

Miranda Rights

When a person is in custody, and before he/ she is questioned by law enforcement, the suspect must be informed of their Miranda rights, which stem from the US Supreme Court 1966 ruling in Miranda v. Arizona. These rights require the arrestee to be informed of his/ her constitutional rights to counsel and to remain silent. If the arrestee is not informed of these rights, any evidence gained from the questioning is not admissible as evidence in a court of law. The wording itself is called the Miranda Warning, and its issuance by an officer to a suspect in custody is often informally referred to as the suspect being Mirandized. Here is the wording in the Miranda Warning:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

Border Patrol Agent Reading Miranda Rights

Some police departments— such as in Indiana, New Jersey, Nevada, Oklahoma and Alaska— add the following sentence to the Miranda Warning:

We have no way of giving you a lawyer, but one will be appointed for you, if you wish, if and when you go to court.

The person in custody must issue a clear, affirmative answer to the Miranda Warning. In other words, silence is not a response, nor is silence an indication that the person is waiving his/ her rights, because the arrestee may not understand or may not speak English as his or her first language. Throughout the US, many law enforcement officers have translations of the Miranda Warning on forms or cards that they present to those in custody.

Let’s say a suspect in custody clearly and affirmatively waives his Miranda rights. If he changes his mind at any time prior to or even during a police interrogation and expresses a wish to remain silent, the interrogation must cease. Or, if the arrestee states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present.

US military branches provide for the right against self-incrimination through a form that informs suspects of their charges and their rights, which they are required to sign. This ends our introduction to arrests and charges. Below are further resources to learn more about these topics.

Additional Resources

Arrest Procedures (American Bar Association)

Fourth Amendment: An Overview (Cornell University Law School)

How Does a Grand Jury Operate? (Ohio State Bar Association)

What Procedures Must the Police Follow While Making an Arrest? (FindLaw)


All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

Click cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click cover to go to book’s Amazon page

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Dealing with Cyberstalkers

Posted by Writing PIs on May 13, 2015

Internet investigations

A few weeks ago, a defamatory “book review” showed up on Amazon — the term book review is in quotes because in no way was it a review of a book. Instead, it was a malicious character attack written by someone hiding behind a bogus ID. Unfortunately, I’m not the only author to deal with such non-book-related reviews written by people with personal agendas.

Contacting Amazon About Vengeful Reviews

By vengeful, I mean reviews that contain no analysis of the book, only mean-spirited, spiteful content directed at the author.

Letter Template

Below is part of the letter I wrote to abuse@amazonaws.com. I have replaced real names and titles so this letter is basically a template.


Dear Amazon:

An abusive comment written by “[bogus ID]” remains in a book review for [book title] [link to book review]:
 
[screen shot of review here]
 
This review does not meet Amazon’s review submission guidelines because:
  • It contains no information about the book itself
  • Content is spiteful
  • Content directs readers to go to other sites that are not associated with the book or Amazon
  • Content only contains malicious attacks on the author

For the above reasons, I request you to please delete this review.

Sincerely, [name]


The above bulleted list specifically addresses content Amazon deems unacceptable in reviews. To read more about Amazon’s review guidelines, click here.

I Found More Evidence About This Cyberstalker

Some cyber-searching revealed this person had cyberstalked before

Internet searches revealed this person had cyberstalked before

Additionally, I did some Internet research on this “reviewer” (thanks to a writer-friend’s lead) and found a connection that revealed his real name. From there, I conducted background research and found a police report where this individual had been reported for cyberstalking several years earlier. I forwarded all of that data to Amazon.

This evidence was powerful, but it’s not always the case that such compelling data is discovered. But even without it, I believe Amazon would have taken down the review due to it violating its review policies.

By the way, it might take Amazon several weeks, even a month, to follow up on a takedown request. If you are waiting for Amazon’s response, resist the urge to click on the bad review link, and ask friends and family not to click it, either. Simply put, clicking = interest and interest = higher ranking. You don’t want that vengeful “review” getting more attention.

Others Stalked on Amazon

Sometimes in a big way. Some of you might recall several years back when a Michael Jackson fan group bombarded a book on Amazon (which they felt was derogatory about MJ) with hundreds of one-star reviews.

Below are some articles and threads written by writers on this topic. Although some say Amazon suggests responding to a stalker’s comment, we at Guns, Gams and Gumshoes advise against it (see “Tips for Handling a Cyberstalker” below).

KDP Thread: Dealing with a Stalker

I Was Stalked on Amazon.com

Wish I could say this recent cyberstalking episode was our first, but it’s not.

A Book Blog Tour Stalker

This happened almost five years ago, only this stalker didn’t stop at fake reviews. He saw where we were on a book blog tour and posted derogatory comments at each site. Yes, we had our own tag-a-long book-blog stalker. He hadn’t even read the book, how rude.

Working with Blog Hosts

We contacted our blog hosts ahead of time, briefly explained that we had our very own personal stalker and suggested the host monitor all comments and delete his offensive rants. Oh, and to please forward us the stalker’s IP address, thank you. Gee, imagine our surprise (not) to see all these derogatory comments were from the same IP address.

Blog Host Put a Stop to It

One of our hosts (decorated ex-military, unafraid to tangle with anyone) posted one of the stalker’s rants, and publicly censured the stalker for acting like a cowardly baby hiding behind his mommy’s skirts. Yes, those were his exact words. Must have hurt the stalker’s feelings because after that his public shenanigans stopped cold. He just…disappeared. Poof! Like smoke.

smoke from empty boots

We didn’t know that particular host would do that — in fact, if we had been told ahead of time that he was going to post a public comment to embarrass the stalker, we would have requested there be no public exchange.

We don’t specialize in stalking cases, but we have been contacted by writers and others who are being stalked, and we always suggest they ignore the stalker and document all activity in case the person wishes to later involve the police or hire an attorney.

What Is Stalking?

Classically, it is a repeated pattern of unwanted, offensive contact intended to harass or frighten the subject. The Internet, unfortunately, provides opportunities for stalkers to anonymously intimidate their victims.

Tips for Handling a Cyberstalker

Here are some tips for handling a cyberstalker.

1. Save all correspondence, including header information in emails and other forms of electronic correspondence.

2. If you are 18 or under, let your parent (or an adult you trust) know about the cyberstalking.

3. Respond in writing with a cease & desist request. Then do not engage further with the cyberstalker. Clearly state that the contact is unwanted and that the cyberstalker should immediately stop all forms of communication. Check the filtering options on your email (and other communication services, such as social media) and apply the filtering options to halt the cyberstalker’s messages from reaching you.

4. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and file a complaint. If you’ve learned the cyberstalker’s ISP, also file a complaint with their ISP, too. ISPs have policies in place to handle cyberstalking, such as eliminating incoming messages from the cyberstalker, if known.

5. If the cyberstalking continues, contact your local law enforcement or local prosecutor’s office to see what charges (if any) can be filed. Save these communications as well, including any police reports.

6. Consider changing your email address, phone numbers, ISP, and other contact information the cyberstalker is using. Also considering using encryption software.

Resources on Cyberstalking

HaltAbuse.org: Working to Halt Online Abuse

Reputation.com: How to Prevent or Defend Against Online Stalking

Women’s Web: Violence Against Women – Stalking

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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#WritingTips: Creating a Pet Detective Character

Posted by Writing PIs on May 8, 2015

A Pet Is Lost Every Two Seconds

We recently read that in the U.S., a family pet is lost every two seconds. That’s astounding, and yet within our own neighborhood we see lost pet signs posted nearly every week. According to the National Humane Society and the National Council of Pet Population Study and Policy, one out of every three pets is lost at some point in its lifetime, and only one out of ten is found.

True Story: Our neighbors’ lost cat was found after four months…living in a fox hole several miles away! A man saw one of their “Missing Cat” posters and recognized it as possibly being a cat that was living in a fox hole on his elderly neighbor’s property. The older woman had been leaving cans of cat food and water outside the fox hole for the cat, who refused to leave its sanctuary. Who knows what that poor cat went through during those months, but it managed to stay alive and find protection.

We Once Found Four Missing Dogs

A few years ago we accepted a missing pet case to try and find four dogs, all the same breed. Our client was elderly, didn’t own a car, and although we weren’t pet detectives, we felt sorry for him and wanted to help.

Some skills PIs use for finding missing persons can be applied to finding missing pets

We started out by contacting local rescue shelters, putting up flyers, calling vet hospitals and clinics…unfortunately, no one had seen the dogs, but they were willing to put the word out. By the way, the flyers had a large picture of one of the dogs, the date the dogs went missing, their names, and our phone number (a special one we set up for this case).

We then drove around the area where the dogs had lived and handed out more flyers. Then we went on foot into a large park near the elderly man’s home, and again handed out flyers and asked people if they’d seen any of these dogs. This is one of the tasks we would conduct to find a person, too (canvas neighborhoods, show photos of the person, ask if anyone had seen him/her, and so forth).

We Found a Lead

While canvassing the park, we met a man who recognized the dog in the poster. He pointed out a remote, corner area of the park where he had seen several of them a few evenings prior.

From our research on this type of dog, we knew its history went back to the Vikings, who used these dogs to hunt moose. These dogs were known to be hardy, with thick fur to protect them from the cold, had above-average intelligence, and were pack animals. We returned to the park that evening and found all four dogs, happily hanging with their pack, foraging for food.

Tips for Writing a Pet Detective

If you’re writing a character who’s a pet detective, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does he/she own a search dog?  Many real-life pet detectives do.
  • What tools does your pet PI use? For example, night-vision binoculars, motion-activated surveillance cameras, a bionic ear to amplify sounds?
  • What investigative traits does your fictional pet PI use? As with other PIs, they might rely on their reasoning, analysis of physical evidence, interview and interrogation, and surveillance techniques to recover lost pets.
  • Where did your fictional pet PI learn about animal behavior — for example, in college, in a veterinarian’s office, or while growing up on a farm?

Pet detectives are generally caring, tenacious and often earn certification in the field. A well-qualified pet detective can make between $300-$1,000 a day.

There’s one last point about writing a pet detective: He/she probably has a big heart. After all, animals possess all that is best in humans.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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Two Article Series: Better Call Saul and Why PIs Investigate Crime Scenes

Posted by Writing PIs on May 3, 2015

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We have recently posted two different sets of articles at our other websites: Shaun Kaufman Law & Colleen Collins Books. One discusses a few legal nits in one of our favorite TV series “Better Call Saul”; the second offers updated course material that we taught a few years back to mystery writers.  Enjoy!

Better Call Saul

Would a Criminal Lawyer Really Do That?

Legal No-Nos in Dumpster Diving Scene

PIs Investigating Crime Scenes

Private Investigators and Crime Scene Investigations, Part I

Private Investigators and Crime Scene Investigations, Part II 

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

Posted in Importance of Crime Scenes, Perspectives from a Criminal Defense Attorney | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on Two Article Series: Better Call Saul and Why PIs Investigate Crime Scenes

 
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