Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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Private Investigator Technique: Canvassing Neighborhoods

Posted by Writing PIs on October 4, 2011

What Does “Canvassing a Neighborhood” Mean?

Canvassing a neighborhood (also referred to as simply “canvassing”) means checking a neighborhood for:

  • Evidence of someone living or visiting the area (such as locating the person’s vehicle).
  • Verification from a neighbor or family member that someone lives at an address or may have recently visited there.
  • Suggestions from friends or family members as to where a person might be.

Often, a PI will be straight-up and say she’s an investigator looking for an individual (this is what Dog the Bounty Hunter does—although some people he interviews will refuse to give up information about the skip (person being located), he usually convinces others it’s in the skip’s best interest to be found, and they give him the information he needs).

On the other hand, a PI might use a pretext (a story) or another identity (for example, pretend to be an old friend) to get people to divulge information.  In our business, we once pretended to be taking a survey (we showed up at every door in the neighborhood with our clipboards and pencils).  In the course of conversations with people who answered their doors, we slipped in questions about a particular person we were skiptracing (who used to live in the neighborhood) to see what information we could mine to his current whereabouts.

A Pet Investigation: Canvassing the Local Parks

We’re not pet detectives, but once we fell into just such a case.  A client lost several (three or four) Norwegian Elkhounds and asked if we could please help.  Our first thought was to do what we often do to find people: canvas the neighborhoods.  But instead of local residential streets, we canvassed parks.  And guess what.  We found the Norwegian Elkhounds in a park that had an undeveloped wildlife section and a lake.  In this case, canvassing neighborhoods worked.

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3 Responses to “Private Investigator Technique: Canvassing Neighborhoods”

  1. Good post on “canvassing” the neighborhood. Sometimes you can get more info that normal by doing this.

  2. Valuable information may be obtained in many ways. A lot of details can be gained by “canvassing’ a neighborhood.

  3. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a private investigator that was a pet detective. I thought that was an urban legend type of thing.

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