Hiring a Private Investigator for Human Trafficking Investigations

Hiring a Private Investigator for Human Trafficking Investigations

Photo courtesy of Cuito Cuanavale, Flickr

Photo courtesy of Cuito Cuanavale, Flickr

The recent surge of undocumented children entering the United States has brought up several issues, one of which is human trafficking. With so many minors coming in unaccompanied, many are worried that the children will become victims of this growing problem. Although slavery seems to be a thing of the past, the number of trafficked humans is much larger than it was centuries ago and continues to rapidly increase worldwide. Part of the problem is lack of awareness and the disbelief that slavery could occur, especially in the Western world. “No country is immune,” warns the United Nations, “whether as a source, a destination or a transit point for victims of human trafficking.”

Trafficking Worldwide

Although the exact number of victims is unknown, researchers estimate the amount of trafficked people to be between 12.3-25 million worldwide. Some are forced into unpaid labor, working in dangerous conditions for little to no pay. Others become victims of sexual exploitation, forced to become prostitutes and earn money for a pimp. Unsurprisingly, the biggest motive for trafficking humans is money. According to experts, the total market value of human trafficking is $32 billion, with nearly a third of that amount coming from the actual sale of victims (United Nations).

Trafficking in the United States

Despite the official abolishing of slavery in 1865, thousands of people are still trafficked within the United State’s borders. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 300,000 children become victims of sexual exploitation alone. Many of them are runaways or were abducted from their homes. One in three teens are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home (National Runaway Hotline). And once a child or teenager is trafficked, especially across country or state borders, it can become much more difficult to find them .

Even though the outlook seems grim, many non-profit organizations and government agencies have begun to battle this epidemic. Recently, the FBI rescued nearly 170 child victims of sex trafficking and arrested 281 pimps (CBS News). Many of these children were never even reported missing, and could very well still be on the streets if not for the FBI’s crackdown. The Bureau’s Innocence Lost program has identified and recovered almost 3,600 children who were victims of sexual exploitation since its start in 2003.

Hiring a Private Investigator

Despite the efforts of the FBI and other agencies, around 2,300 people still go missing in the United States each day (Crime Library). Because the amount of missing persons cases is so high, many families choose to look for outside help. A private investigator will work with the family and friends of a missing person and help generate leads for law enforcement. Private eyes have the time and resources to focus on a specific case, and those that have experience finding missing children know what signs to look for. “What is the PI going to do that the police won’t?  He is going to keep on searching,” says Jerrie Dean of Missing Persons of America. “He is getting paid to find the person, not the reason they left.”

According to Dean, hiring a private investigator can help even if the person isn’t found right away. “He brings that information back to the family, the family tells the media, the media reports it and then the police are renewed and following a new lead to [the victim],” says Dean. Part of the problem with missing persons cases is publicity. Too often, the media only broadcasts photos of missing people that will gain the most viewers, and eventually the attention peters out. Keeping a case alive can be the driving force in finding a missing person.

Investigations of a Different Breed: Uncovering Animal Abuse

Investigations of a Different Breed: Uncovering Animal Abuse

Photo Courtesy of Angela N., Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Angela N., Flickr

For several decades, animal rights organizations have provided a voice to the animals that couldn’t speak up for themselves. The fight against animal cruelty is ongoing, and despite new regulations, many animals are still kept in abusive conditions worldwide. One of the best ways to catch the offenders and put an end to the cruelty is by gathering video evidence of inhumane situations. Many of these animal rights organizations have begun hiring private investigators to do surveillance on locations that have been rumored to be abusive.

A Voice for those Who Have None

In 2009, TIME ran an article about a private eye who went undercover at a hog farm. The investigator, who went by the name “Pete”, gave up his dream of becoming a cop and left behind his family and friends to pursue a career as an animal rights investigator. His account of the farm and the ensuing court case were featured in an HBO documentary called Death on a Factory Farm. Thanks to his video evidence, Pete has been able to uncover horrible conditions at farms and factories of all kinds throughout the country. According to him, the worst was chicken farms, where barely living hens were tossed into the trash after having their necks broken.

Farms aren’t the only places being targeted by investigators and organizations alike. The Ringling Bros. Circus and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have been in an ongoing battle over claims of animal abuse. PETA has launched its own investigation into the circus, documenting video footage of circus staff beating elephants and gathering witness accounts from past circus employees. Aquariums and zoos have also been in the news after documentaries like Blackfish brought abuse at SeaWorld to the public’s eye. Zoos, kennels, and even private homes are also hot spots that may require an investigation.

Doing it the Right Way

Often, the people who look into these claims and infiltrate businesses aren’t investigators at all. And when someone who’s inexperienced in the field of investigation goes undercover, there’s the potential for serious consequences. Consider the story of Taylor Radig, an animal right’s activist who went undercover at a cattle company in Denver, Colorado. Radig was a contractor for Compassion Over Killing, an organization dedicated to uncovering and preventing animal cruelty. Her investigation was centered around gathering video evidence at the cattle farm. During her time there, Radig witnessed workers pushing and shoving day old calves, a clear sign of animal abuse. Once she presented authorities with her proof, those workers were charged with cruelty to animals. However, Radig soon found herself charged with the Class 1 misdemeanor as well, because she had neglected to report the abuse as soon as she had seen it.

Taylor Radig isn’t the only person to be charged with the very abuse she was trying to prevent, and she certainly won’t be the last. Some states have laws that require cruelty to be reported immediately, and those who view it and fail to tell authorities in time are just as guilty as the offenders. That’s why it’s important to hire someone who is experienced in the field. Even Pete, the private eye who investigated the hog farm, was unlicensed at the time of the article. He and others like him run the risk of criminal charges and lawsuits if they get caught, and the evidence might not hold up in court as well if it was obtained illegally.

For these reasons, several animal rights groups have decided that simply having an organization member go undercover isn’t enough. These groups are dealing with big companies, and investigations require careful planning that are performed according to the law. Hiring a licensed, experienced investigator who is familiar with the law can ensure that this video evidence is collected in a safe matter. After all, a court battle involving an amateur investigator takes away time and attention from the true victims here: the animals.

Wrongly Convicted Man Gets $7.95 Million Settlement

Wrongly Convicted Man Gets $7.95 Million Settlement

LOS ANGELES — A man who spent 24 years imprisoned for a murder he did not commit will receive $7.95 million from the City of Long Beach after he sued the police there for withholding evidence in his 1980 trial.

Thomas Lee Goldstein

The settlement, made public Thursday, is the largest pretrial settlement ever in California for a wrongful conviction and one of the largest in the country, said Barry Litt, a lawyer for the man, Thomas Lee Goldstein.

In 2004, Mr. Goldstein was freed from prison after the Los Angeles district attorney dismissed all charges against him in the 1979 killing of a Long Beach drug dealer. The move was based on new evidence that the police had coached the only witness in the case by pointing Mr. Goldstein out in a photo spread as a suspect who had failed a polygraph test.

Lawyers also presented evidence that the police had offered Eddy Fink, a heroin addict and police informant, leniency in a grand theft conviction if he testified against Mr. Goldstein.

At the trial, Mr. Fink told the jury that Mr. Goldstein had confessed to the killing when the two men briefly shared a jail cell. Mr. Fink, who has since died, lied in court when asked if he had made any deal with the police before testifying, Mr. Litt said.

But Monte Machit, the Long Beach deputy attorney who defended the city in the case, said the police had not provided Mr. Fink “with any benefit in exchange for the information he offered.”

“We don’t believe there was any wrongdoing” by city officials, Mr. Machit said. “This is a lot of money, but in light of the potential verdict,” which could have been $24 million to $30 million and lawyers’ fees, he said, “we thought it better to get it resolved.”

Mr. Goldstein, 61, said the settlement was the end of a 30-year-long “painful chapter” in his life.

He said he would spend his coming years trying to “rebuild my life, prepare for retirement and help others who have not been as fortunate as I am today.”

Wisconsin man attempts drive-by shooting, forgets to roll down car window

Wisconsin man attempts drive-by shooting, forgets to roll down car window

Drive-by shooting epic fail: Forgetting to roll down your car window before you start shooting from the driver’s seat. Whoops.

Andrew J. Burwitz, 20, of Appleton, Wis., allegedly tried to do a drive-by shooting at the home of his ex-girlfriend’s family and another random house. Police found him because he failed to roll down his car window and shattered it when he made the first shot.

He was charged Wednesday with four counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, four counts of endangering safety by reckless use of a firearm, disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property.

More from the Appleton Post-Crescent:

According to court documents, the occupants of the house in the Town of Buchanan were awakened about 2 a.m. Monday to the sounds of breaking glass.

They saw a car driving off and found two bullets had struck the exterior of the house and three had entered the living room. None of the four people in the house was injured. The ex-girlfriend was attending school out of state.

Sheriff’s deputies examining the area found broken auto glass in the street, and, later that day, contacted area auto glass repair shops and found Burwitz had his car window replaced after filing an insurance claim.

Burwitz had been drinking heavily that night. But seriously, you still forgot to roll down the window? Boggles our mind.