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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Funny Holiday Investigation Tales

Posted by Writing PIs on December 21, 2016

One of the Writing PIs and Santa (image copyrighted)

One of the Writing PIs and Santa (image copyrighted)

 

Not all private investigations are serious affairs—sometimes they’re funny. Below are two of those cases, along with a third that doesn’t involve investigators, but a deputy district attorney and a very drunk, and surprised, young man.

“I want my husband served his divorce papers on Christmas day–tell him they’re his gift from me.”

We had a thoroughly irked wife who’d found out about her husband’s blatant philandering, and made a special request through her divorce attorney: she wanted the cheater served on Christmas Day. Had to be served on Christmas Day, no other day would do.  To top it off, he was working at a local jail on Christmas Day. So, we showed up at the jail and politely asked to see him. Minutes later, he appeared–a handsome, cocky 30-something–who took the envelope we handed him, opened it, read that his wife was filing for divorce, and after thanking us, said,”This is the best Christmas gift!”

“My husband’s in the alley going for Krispy Kremes—serve him, quick!”

Another wife wanting a divorce served. Seemed her husband, who she still lived with, had done her wrong and she wanted him served ASAP, which happened to be the day after Christmas. We showed up at the front door with the papers, rang the bell, and the wife (our client) answered. She whispered that her husband was pretending to take a shower because he was afraid she wanted to have him served divorce papers, and would we mind coming back in a half hour when he did his usual Saturday morning run for Krispy Kremes? We said sure, we’d come back.

Thirty minutes later, we parked in the alley behind the house and, to our surprise, saw the wife running down the alley, waving frantically at us, yelling, “He’s pulling out of the driveway any minute!”

We happened to be parked in front of the driveway, so when the garage door opened and he attempted to back out, there we were, papers in hand. He refused to open his driver’s window, so we placed the papers on his windshield, told him he was served, and drove away.  We suppose he left and got his Krispy Kremes after that.

“Stop or I’ll shoot, wherever you are!”

A young man on New Year’s Eve had been drinking with some friends and wandered away from the bar shortly after midnight. That he could still walk after all he’d consumed was a miracle. He ended up walking up the driveway of a house that he thought he still lived in (but, in fact, he’d moved from years ago). Finding the front door locked, he went to the back porch and opened the sliding glass door. After entering the living room, he curled up on the couch and began playing with the video game console in front of him.

Moments later, the current owner of the house, who happened to be legally blind (as well as being a deputy D.A. for that jurisdiction), heard noises, got his gun, and walked into the living room yelling, “Stop!  Get down, wherever you are, I have a gun!”

Chaos ensued as the highly intoxicated young man fell over more furniture than the legally blind D.A. with the gun did. Fortunately, the D.A.’s young son (hiding in a back room) had already dialed 911, so the police arrived before more damage could be done. Although charges were filed, the D.A. recommended all charges be dropped and the young man undergo in-patient alcohol treatment.

Hopefully your holidays are less eventful and more fun!

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Real-Life Private Detective Tales: Three Memorable Christmas Investigations

Posted by Writing PIs on December 12, 2016

Christmas horizontal wreath

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

Story #1: Serving Christmas 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: The Rancher Who Was Staring at 48 Years in Prison

Eight years ago, an attorney hired us to prove that his client (who became our client as well) had not aimed and fired a gun directly at a couple who had intruded on his land. In September, the rancher had been charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and was currently  incarcerated. The D.A. was hot to find him guilty, which meant our client might not see freedom for 24 years minimum, 48 years maximum.

This rancher had never done anything criminal in his entire life. Had never even gotten a speeding ticket. He and his family were devastated at the accusations, and the possibility of his being in prison for decades to come.

detective with flashlight

(Image licensed, please do not copy or distribute)

This was a physically demanding, gritty case where we searched acres and acres of cold ranch land (a little over 800 acres to be exact) in bone-chilling late fall and winter temperatures. We used metal detectors to meticulously search laid-out crime scene areas where we believed (after consulting with a ballistics expert) the slugs may have fallen. It was critical to find these slugs—their placement would show the rancher had fired warning shots, not intentionally lethal shots.

Burrs worked their way up through the soles of our shoes, our bodies ached from hours of bending over, searching the ground, fighting disappointment whenever we hit false leads (years ago, parts of the land had been a dump, so the metal detectors kept pinging that they’d found metal, and we’d dig to find not slugs, but rusted bedsprings, nails, and the like).

Then one day, we found the first slug! Then the second, the third…finally the fourth! Out there on those hundreds of acres of chilly prairie, we whooped and hollered with joy! The rancher’s mother heard us and ran, tears streaming down her face, to see if we’d found the evidence to prove her son’s innocence.

The D.A. dropped the more serious charges, and the rancher was released on a much-lower bond on Christmas Eve. His family had an especially meaningful Christmas that year.

Story #3: The Young Father Facing Months in Jail

handcuffed hands

(Image licensed, please do not copy or distribute)

One Christmas Eve, Shaun (Gums, Gams and Gumshoes co-author, former PI, and now a criminal defense attorney) 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, who told Shaun he was innocent of the charges, was facing up to six months in jail if found guilty on all counts.

Shaun pointed out to the judge that, at worst, the young man was guilty of contacting his ex-wife so that he could obtain some 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 last night when awoken by the beeping of Shaun’s cell phone. The young man had texted Shaun to let him know 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.

For those who celebrate it, have a wonderful Christmas, Writing PIs

The Zen Man by Colleen Collins

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All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Please do not copy/distribute any images noted as copyrighted or licensed. 

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Five Holiday Safety Tips

Posted by Writing PIs on December 4, 2016

Holiday Safety Tips (Image Licensed by Colleen Collins)

As the holidays approach, our work load invariably picks up as more criminal cases come into the office. Sometimes on a festive evening, such as New Year’s Eve, we’ll look at each other and say, “Wonder what’s happening tonight that brings in work over the next few weeks or months?” Notice we don’t say “Wonder if something will happen…”

Five Safety Tips

Below are a few safety tips to keep you and yours from hiring attorneys or private investigators over the next few weeks.

Tip #1: When you go shopping, lock your car. It sounds so simple, yet you’d be surprised at the number of people who forget to do this. People get preoccupied with shopping, holiday parties, who’s picking up Great-Aunt Sarah on Christmas Eve…and they forget to lock their car doors. That makes easy pickings for thieves looking through car windows—if they see a package, it can be theirs within seconds. Several years ago, Sergeant Foley of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department claimed that nearly 50 percent of the car break-ins in his area were due to cars being left unlocked.

Tip #2: Park in well-lighted areas. Don’t tempt a thief by parking where there’s little or no lighting.

An unlocked door is an invitation to a criminal

Unlocked Doors Are Open Invitations to Criminals (Image Licensed by Colleen Collins)

Tip #3: Avoid parking on side streets. Vehicles parked on secluded side streets are easy prey for thieves. Also, with increased holiday traffic, and drivers preoccupied with cell phone conversations, passengers, or even eating while driving, your vehicle might be the victim of a hit-and-run.

Tip #4: Drink responsibly.

You Don't Want to Wear One of these Bracelets This Holiday

You Don’t Want to Wear One of These Bracelets This Holiday (Image Licensed by Colleen Collins)

Yeah, this sounds like one of those ads, but it is smart advice. Many of our criminal investigation cases involve people drinking too much and doing something stupid that they regret for years to come.

Watch the other guy, too —is someone getting blitzed and out of control at a party? Be proactive and make sure he/she has a sober driver to take them home. Or call a taxi and pay the driver upfront for the person’s ride home, which might be the best holiday gift they get. Also if a party is getting out of control, it’s a good time to leave.

Tip #5: Be aware. Perhaps the best advice is to be aware and use common sense.  Don’t carry so many packages to your vehicle that you can’t quickly reach your cell phone or car keys. Shop in groups rather than alone. If you have a choice to shop during the day or at night, pick daylight hours. Don’t leave items visible in your car that might tempt a thief. Have fun at parties, but drink responsibly and avoid those who aren’t.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season!

One-Day Sale! Mistletoe & Murder in Las Vegas is FREE on Monday, Dec 5, 2016!
2016 I Heart Indie Finalist

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Click on image to go to Amazon page.

A heartfelt, humorous, romantic-mystery story about a down-on-her-luck lawyer, a special agent visited by the past, and an arson dog named Maggie who join forces to rescue the holiday spirit!

“Mistletoe and Murder in Las Vegas” is Colleen Collins at her best. It’s got the charm and humor of the best romantic comedies combined with a genuinely good mystery–an unbeatable combination. I couldn’t put the book down once I started it.” ~Nancy Warren, USA Today Bestselling Author

wreath line

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Please do not copy/distribute any images noted as copyrighted or licensed. Images noted as in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.

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5 Tips to Safeguard Your House for Halloween

Posted by Writing PIs on October 26, 2016

haunted-house2

Dark, spooky houses invite trick-or-treaters to stumble and fall (image in public domain)

It’s almost Halloween, the spooky, fun time of year when we decorate our houses with cobwebs, pumpkins, and other ghoulish goodies in preparation for Halloween night when trick or treaters visit. A spooky house, however, can become a real-life nightmare should a visitor trip and fall because of inadequate lighting, objects on walkways, and more.

Below are five tips for safeguarding your house this Halloween so you only serve candy, and don’t get served with a lawsuit.

Five Tips for Safeguarding Your Haunted House

  1. Keep walkways dry and clear from objects, such as electrical cords, that could cause your visitors to stumble.
  2. Use electrical extension cords in the yard that are rated for outdoor use, thereby avoiding electrical shorts and fires. Better yet, check out the different kinds of solar-powered lights (string lights, sparkling jars of lights, spotlights, etc.). Their solar panels require charging during the day anywhere from 5-8 hours, and they work beautifully throughout the night without any electrical cords causing potential hazards.For example, here’s a link to solar jack-o-lantern string lights.
  3. Maintain good lighting for your candy-hunting guests in areas where they walk up to your doorway. Keep in mind children might be wearing masks that block their vision, and that children might be running as they approach your door. Dark-tinted lights and flashing strobes could blind them, causing them to trip and fall.
  4. Secure yard decorations (such as faux tombstones) from the wind. Weather changes, such as a high wind, could bring down unstable decorations, causing obstructions in pathways or falling against children.
  5. Direct traffic at your doorway. If possible, limit the number of trick or treaters coming up to the door to prevent chaos and possible injuries. Another idea is to remain on the porch during the busiest hours to hand out candy.

Have a happy, safe Halloween!

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Answering a Writer’s Question: Has a Bad Guy Ever Tried to Hire You?

Posted by Writing PIs on October 15, 2016

This was a question that came up several times in our workshops with writers. It’s a good question, as too often in books and film, a PI-character blithely hands over sensitive information to a “client” who has a dark agenda. Writers, just because you see/read this in stories doesn’t mean it’s how PIs operate in real life; in fact, naively handing over potentially damaging information to a client just because he/she asked for it is becoming a cliche.

Read on to learn how we, and other PIs, screen their clients…

(Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Do “Bad Guys” Sometimes Try to Hire PIs? (Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

WRITER’S QUESTION: Have you ever had a “bad guy” try to hire you to find someone? What if you didn’t realized it was a bad guy—after you found the person, what would you do?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: Yes, we’ve had “bad guys” ask us to find someone. What triggered us to think this potential client might have bad reasons/aren’t being honest?

  1. We always run a criminal background check on any non-attorney clients (right there we can find nefarious reasons, such as restraining orders, divorces in progress, domestic violence convictions, etc.)
  2. If the person requesting the skiptrace (search for someone) omits certain information, or makes inflated claims as to why they want to locate another person, we’ll generally refuse the case. And if we do accept a skiptrace, we never hand over the sought-person’s personal contact information (street address, phone number, etc.). Instead, we provide our client’s contact information to the individual (sometimes the client will write a letter explaining his/her reasons for wishing to make contact). At that point, it is solely the found-person’s decision whether or not he/she wishes to make contact.
  3. Sometimes we’ll hear signs of intoxication/mental illness in a requestor’s speech, and we refuse the work
  4. Suspicious emails—be they directed from a bogus-sounding account or the request is stated in such a way it’s obvious they’re wanting us to break the law. We delete the requestor’s email and that’s that.

To clarify our response to the second part of your question, when we smell a bad situation, we simply don’t take the case. If we were to take the case, and then realize it’s a bad situation, we refund the client’s money and terminate our work without relaying any information we might have learned in our investigation. Using such filters, we have never been in the position of finding out something that might harm a third party. If we were ever in that position, we would contact law enforcement with what we’d discovered.

Writing PIs, a Couple of PIs Who Also Write

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#WritingTips Two NonFiction Books for Writers Crafting Sleuths

Posted by Writing PIs on September 13, 2016

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-00-51-amWe at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes had a lovely surprise this morning—author Tina Russo Radcliffe recommended our two books, How to Write a Dick: A Guide to Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths and How Do Private Eyes Do That? to her writing community on Facebook (see her message on the right side of this post).

Book Excerpt: How Do Private Eyes Do That?

Below is an excerpt from How Do Private Eyes Do That? by Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins.

A Pet Is Lost Every Two Seconds

I recently read that in the US, 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.

Our neighbors’ lost cat was found after four months—it had been living in a fox hole several miles away! A man saw one of their “Missing Cat” posters and recognized it as possibly being the 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.

PIs often use people-finding techniques when looking for lost pets (Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

PIs often use people-finding techniques when looking for lost pets (Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

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 have conducted 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.

Writing Tips

(Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

(Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

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; and interview, 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 or she probably has a big heart. After all, animals possess all that is best in humans.

—End of Excerpt—

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Please do not copy/distribute any articles without written permission from Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman. Do not copy/distribute or otherwise use any mages noted as copyrighted or licensed. Images noted as in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.

Posted in HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT? Second Edition Aug 2016, Nonfiction book: HOW TO WRITE A DICK, Nonfiction Books on Private Investigations, Realistic Private Eye Characters, Writing Legal Characters/Stories | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on #WritingTips Two NonFiction Books for Writers Crafting Sleuths

Favorite PI Blogs, Websites, Online Magazines

Posted by Writing PIs on August 20, 2016

Collins_HowDoPrivateEyesDoThat BLOG ONLINE PR 800One of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s writers, Colleen, just released the second edition of How Do Private Eyes Do That?, which contains 70 percent new content. Below is an excerpt from the book, “Favorite Blogs, Websites, Magazines,” which is a sampling of favorites among the many wonderful investigative resources online.

Book Excerpt: Favorite Blogs, Websites, and Online Magazines

Below are a few favorite blogs, websites, and online magazines, some authored by real-life PIs, others written about private eyes in films and books, while others are by experts in associated fields.

The sites are listed alphabetically. To visit a site, click on its name.

Cold Case Squad: A blog by Joseph L. Giacalone, retired NYPD Detective Sergeant, former Commanding Officer of the Bronx Cold Case Homicide Squad, and author of The Criminal Investigative Function. His blog covers such topics as forensics, law enforcement’s use of social media, police body cams, and more.

Defrosting Cold Cases: A resource blog about cold cases, authored by former human rights lawyer, cold case blogger, and crime fiction author Alice de Sturler. Defrosting Cold Cases has placed #1, category criminal justice, in the American Bar Association’s Top 100 Blawgs for 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Diligentia: A blog by New York private investigator Brian Willingham, CFE – President, who specializes in background investigations, due diligence, and legal investigations.

eInvestigator: A resource website for private investigators, police officers, crime scene investigators, security specialists, legal professionals, and those researching the internet for people and information. This site has it all: PI specializations (including ghost hunting services for haunted facilities), spy gear, research books and tools, even a “List of Lists” page with lists such as US airports and their official codes, all US Presidents, criminal competencies and corresponding court cases, list of US insurance companies, and more.

Kevin’s Security Scrapbook: Spy News from New York: A blog by Kevin D. Murray, an independent security consultant who specializes in surveillance detection, security, and privacy problems.

Kusic and Kusic: Private investigations firm headquartered in Vancouver, BC. They specialize in video surveillance, litigation support, online investigations, executive protection, and more.

PIBuzz: A blog by California private investigator Tamara Thompson, well known for her expertise in internet data gathering, genealogical and adoption research, witness background development, and locating people.

PI Magazine: A trade magazine for professional private investigators. You can read articles via a subscription or by ordering an individual issue. The website also provides links to podcasts by professional PIs, US PI organizations and conferences, a bookstore, and spygear shop.

PINow: An online directory of pre-screened, professional private investigators. Click on Investigator Center at top of screen to read articles written by PIs on a variety of investigative topics.

Private Eye Confidential: A blog by California private investigator Mike Spencer of Spencer Elrod Services, Inc.  Mike has been a private investigator for nearly two decades, in the course of which he worked with legendary Hollywood private eye John Nazarian. Mike writes interesting, relevant, and sometimes downright entertaining articles about the profession.

Pursuit Magazine: An online community of professional sleuths that “opens a door to a world of mystery and intrigue, a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of real spies and PIs.” This site is a rich source of research with dozens of articles by experts in the fields of private investigations, security, bail enforcement, skip tracing, and more. No subscription fees—all articles available for public viewing.

The Rap Sheet: A blog by J. Kingston Pierce, author,  senior editor of January Magazine, and the lead crime fiction blogger for Kirkus Reviews. The Rap Sheet dishes the news in the world of crime fiction, both recent and vintage, and lists links to several hundred (at least) crime fiction blogs and author sites.

The Thrilling Detective: Everything you ever wanted to know about private eyes in books, radio, movies, television, even the real world. Founded by author/editor Kevin Burton Smith.

-End of Excerpt-

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Please do not copy/distribute any articles without written permission from Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman. Do not copy/distribute or otherwise use any mages noted as copyrighted or licensed. Images noted as in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.

Posted in Book Excerpt: Favorite Blogs, HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT? Second Edition Aug 2016, Magazines, Websites | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Favorite PI Blogs, Websites, Online Magazines

#WriteTip Free Online Magazines for Researching PIs, Bounty Hunters, Law Enforcement Officers

Posted by Writing PIs on July 29, 2016

PI taking surveillance footage (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

There’s some great online magazines that contain informative articles for professionals—they’re also excellent resources for writers crafting private investigators, police officers, bounty hunters, CSI experts, and more.

Check out some of these online magazines:

Tickle the Wire: Tapping Into the Latest News in Federal Law Enforcement.

Evidence Technology Magazine: Focused exclusively on evidence collection, processing, and preservation, with topics covering the CSI effect, fingerprint technology, computer forensics, forensic DNA, and much more.

Pursuit Magazine: The magazine of professional investigators.

Collateral: A bail industry magazine that focuses on the bail bond industry, bail bond agents, sureties and the way they conduct business.

American Police Beat: A magazine and forum where law enforcement officers speak out about the issues affecting their personal and professional lives.

Serve Now: Not a magazine, but a handy resource for learning about process servers and their work.


Available August 1, 2016

FB Banner Kim Killion Final draft July 29 2016

 

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Please do not copy/distribute any images noted as copyrighted or licensed. Images noted as in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.

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Best and Worst Places to Hide Your Valuables at Home

Posted by Writing PIs on July 14, 2016

Many security experts say to not store valuables in your bedroom (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Some security experts say the bedroom is the worst place to store valuables (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Last winter, a magazine asked Colleen, the PI-writer of Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, if she’d like to forward a few tips on where to stash, or not stash, valuables in one’s home. She forwarded the below ideas, and they incorporated several in their article. Besides Colleen having in the past interviewed clients who have been burglarized, and her research on the subject, she was also unfortunately “home-burglarized” years ago.

Below are a few of her suggestions on good and bad storage spots.

Four Tips for Stashing Your Valuables at Home

by Colleen Collins, All Rights Reserved

Years before I became a private investigator, I was the victim of a home burglary. I can vouch for statistics that claim the top three items burglars go for are electronics, jewelry, and cash because I lost all three.

I can also vouch for stats that the bedroom is the worst place to hide your valuables. Burglars snatched the jewelry case on my dresser, a laptop off a table, and an envelope marked “Las Vegas” stuffed with bills for an upcoming vacation. Therefore, my first suggestion is…

Security Tip #1: Don’t keep valuables in your bedroom, including under your mattress. And never write “Las Vegas” on a fat envelope, D’oh!

Security Tip #2: If you have a lot of books, a hollowed-out novel on a bookshelf works. Burglars are in a rush to get in and out—they’re not going to waste time browsing titles in a massive bookcase.

Security Tip #3: My .02: Ditch the empty coffee can in a cupboard as a security stronghold. These days, people often purchase coffee beans in paper or plastic bags—IMHO, a metal coffee can would look, to quote Raymond Chandler, “as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake.”

Security Tip #4: Hide valuables in a large cardboard box that’s stacked with similar boxes, maybe marked with household terms like “Bathroom” or “Old Clothes.” Burglary is a crime of opportunity, timing, and ease of transfer. Thieves don’t want to waste time pawing through a bunch of boxes, plus carting large boxes out of a residence risks attracting unwanted attention.

This article addresses storage places inside the home. After my experience, I took extra precautions to hinder anyone ever breaking into my home again, which included a security walk-through by a professional security company who recommended which windows and doors should have security features. I took their advice and had security doors installed and bars placed over certain windows.

Our Rotties, the Best Home Security System of All (image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

Our Rotties, Maybe the Best Security of All (image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

Fast forward to current day, we have followed similar security installations in our current home, including security cameras placed around the premises. We also have two big Rottweilers, who just might be the best security feature of all!


All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy/distribute any images noted as copyrighted or licensed. Do not copy or re-use any portions of this article without first contacting its author, Colleen Collins, for her written permission.

Coming August 2016: How Do Private Eyes Do That? (Second Edition)

Coming August 2016 (image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

(image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

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#WriteTip PIs, Lawyers and Clients: Who’s Driving the Bus?

Posted by Writing PIs on June 11, 2016

Would a PI grill a new client while the lawyer says nothing?

Would a PI grill a new client while the lawyer says nothing? (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

A Cliche in the Making?

Recently, I’ve read this scenario in several private eye novels: In a first-time meeting with a new client in a defense lawyer’s office, the PI runs the show while the lawyer stays mum in the background. Sometimes the PI gets aggressive with the client, going full-tilt interrogation mode, demanding to know what the client said and did at a crime scene, for example. Meanwhile, the lawyer sits idly nearby, saying zilch, the epitome of passivity.

I’ve never met a milquetoast criminal lawyer. Especially on their turf.

Better to double-check for accuracy than propagate a cliche in your story.

Better to double-check for accuracy than propagate a cliche in your story (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

After reading similar scenes in multiple books, I began to wonder if some writers are reading scenes like this in others’ private eye stories, so they copy the same set-up as if it’s realistic. Nope. It’s not. Copying a scenario, especially one involving a legal setting, without conducting some research to check accuracy is lazy writing. You might as well put your PI in a trench coat, carrying a sap, and swilling whiskey while on the job. You know, the stuff cliches are made of.

Let’s look at a few reasons why a PI wouldn’t behave like this.

Why a PI Would Not Blindly Take Control

Typically, a PI has already spoken to the attorney about the case, as well as the lawyer’s client’s involvement, before the meeting. It could even be the PI has recommended this particular client to the attorney, which has happened to us in the past, but we still let the attorney guide the meeting because if the PI takes over, problems can occur:

  • The PI might lead the client to have unreal legal expectations.
  • The PI could propose an unwanted (by the lawyer) course of legal strategy, or the investigator might foreclose the exploration of a viable legal or factual defense.
  • It is unethical for a lawyer to practice law with someone who is not a lawyer, a gray area that the PI could step into if he/she’s trying to run the meeting.
  • A client can lose respect for the lawyer if the PI is coming across as the one in charge. (Note from Shaun, the defense lawyer in Writing PIs: “This is more from the lawyer’s perspective because the last thing a lawyer wants to lose is his client’s respect.”)

Contributing to the Discussion

Nothing wrong with a PI making contributions in such meetings, but a smart PI knows better than to try and drive the bus.

Although you could turn this around for humor, or tension, in your story. Maybe the lawyer warns the PI to stop talking, and the investigator keeps yammering away, until the lawyer invites the PI into the hallway “for a chat.” Or maybe the lawyer warns the PI ahead of time to keep his/her opinions to herself, please, and let the attorney run the meeting…and the PI doesn’t.

Shaun had such a chat with an investigator many years ago because she had a bad habit of trying to “play lawyer,” but at the same time she was a stellar private investigator. After he gave his closing argument at trial, the PI passed him a note that read, “You forgot to mention these points…” And listed items she thought he had missed. “You need to ask the judge for a few more minutes to finish your closing.”

Shaun gave her a look and crumpled up the note. Twenty minutes later, the jury came back with a not guilty verdict.

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All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy/distribute any images noted as copyrighted or licensed. Do not copy or re-use any portions of this article without first contacting its author, Colleen Collins, for her written permission.

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Coming August 2016 (image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

Coming August 2016 (image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

Posted in Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on #WriteTip PIs, Lawyers and Clients: Who’s Driving the Bus?

 
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