Private investigators of film and screen seem to have relatively few tools, and they all seem to use the same tools. They have a pistol of some sort, either a revolver or an older semi-automatic. They have some sort of liquor, usually whiskey or bourbon (the most hardboiled of liquors). Sometimes they have a camera for taking pictures. They almost always have a vehicle or a friend with a vehicle who drives them around.
But real life is not like a movie at all, and some of the tools of the trade are very different these days. So, if you’re looking to set out on a new career as a private investigator, here are a handful of tools you’ll need.
A Mobile Phone
One of the most important things any private investigator can carry around is a mobile phone. Such a phone can provide so many different useful functions to an investigator.
Firstly, it’s the main means of communicating with clients, employers, and more.
Secondly, it has access to the internet on the go. If you’re searching for answers, need to know what your target looks like, or if you’re simply trying to find directions to someone’s business for surveillance purposes, a mobile phone is essential.
A computer is also essential for anyone working in private investigation. It’s a great place for making notes, but also for tracking hours worked, writing reports, and even for keeping track of (and organizing) photographic evidence.
It’s hard to work without a computer in any job, but if you’re trying to provide information for civil suits, it is almost impossible to do so without a computer.
A Decent Camera
One of the few things that the movies got right was the importance of photographic evidence. If you’re a private investigator working family law cases, or trying to catch individuals cheating on their spouses, nothing is better than evidence of the target ‘in flagrante delicto’ (a Latin phrase that translates to ‘in blazing offense’).
This camera should be sturdy, have decent magnification abilities, and most of all, should not be a cell phone camera. Yes, cell phone cameras make life simpler, but they are not necessarily the best when it comes to resolution, stability, and quality of picture.
A good camera with a decent set of lenses is worth its weight in gold.
A Lot of Hard Drive Space
Taking pictures, holding on to files, and even creating ‘images’ of hard drives takes up a lot of hard drive space. Further, due to the nature of private investigation, an investigator will eventually pass on much of this data to their clients or to legal authorities.
Because of this, it’s wise to have additional hard drive space for work. However, because we live in the era of SD cards and USB drive, it’s easier than ever before to store the data independent of a working computer, and to simply hand off the USB drive or SD card when the work is done.
Plus, in many cases, you can charge the cost of the storage device to the client.
If you’re connecting evidence with fingerprints or DNA, such as could occur in a case related to paternity, then plastic bags are a necessity. The best plastic bags utilize zipper, not the press and seal, but any sort of quality plastic bag is a decent way to protect evidence until experts can analyze it.
A Handgun (Maybe)
A handgun can be a useful tool in the right hands. Some private investigations can involve a measure of danger, and in some cases (especially those involving family law, divorce, and similar cases), tempers may run hot.
So yes, a handgun is something that may benefit some private investigators. However, if you are going to carry a handgun, it behooves you to train with it, and ensure that you attend classes concerning the legal issues tied to self-defense in your area, whether the state requires it or not.
If you’re looking to learn more about being a private investigator, education will always help. You can find applicable classes at your local community college, or you can find online courses at places like Stratford Career Institute.
Such classes will allow you to learn at your own pace, as well as giving you the basic knowledge of the job and how to legally and effectively run private investigations.
Interested in learning more about becoming a private investigator? Download our guide to Private Investigator Training below!
Learn more about taking a Private Investigator course with Stratford Career Institute.