Private investigations are often challenging, complex -- that's the primary reason clients employ a private investigator. Chances are you've heard, maybe even used the idiom, "Going down the rabbit hole" which refers to taking routes that are problematic, often following leads that are not specifically related an investigation. Starting out I experienced this problem first hand. After completing several interviews in a simple assault case, I had a long list of additional "leads" to follow. What should have been a simple, quick investigation, quickly expanded to include several actions. When asked by my supervisor about the status of the case. I shared the information I collected and how I was diligently following several "leads" such as; "Did the combatants know each other?", "Exactly what time did it occur", among others. Patiently my supervisor worked with me so I would understand the concept of going down the rabbit hole and how to avoid it.
First, to avoid investigative rabbit holes, it is important to identify specific questions that need to be answered. In my previous example, the questions were simple; "Did an assault occur?" and "Who was the aggressor?" By focusing on answering just one or two questions other issues that are raised are often moot such as exactly what time did the incident occur. Whether it happened at 11:00 or 11:15 was not relevant, rather did it happen.
Second, as a private investigator the scope statement that is developed with the client is the best guide for the investigation. If during an interview additional information about other incidents arise, they can be referred back to the client while the investigator focuses on the initial scope statement. This is critical to meeting the contractual obligations as well as ensuring the investigation stays focused.
Third, identifying the relevancy of facts collected, which can be a combination of one and two above, will help avoid going astray during an investigation. A lot of facts are collected during any investigation. Several of the facts may not be directly relevant to the incident being investigated. Gather facts as they are found during an investigation but when nearing the end of the investigation focus on relevant facts to ensure the investigation is accurate and that others will have a clear understanding of what actually occurred. One of our favorite examples used to teach report writing is a statement that a private investigator put in a report about an internal employee theft case. "Witness 1 stated that they had noticed that the suspect often coughed a lot which disturbed others in the office." This statement had no relevancy in the case but the investigator decided to include it in the report.
Professional private investigators know the importance of keeping their investigations focused on the specific questions need to be answered, staying within the scope of the investigation and sorting the facts as to their relevancy to the specific incident. Being a private investigator requires being cognizant of the time spent, focusing on the scope of the investigation to ensure that the investigation is profitable. (This does not imply that investigators should short-cut an investigation - rather focus on the incident at hand).
Pro PI staff
Experienced professionals and trainers.