Photo by Nicolas Halftermeyer (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Today’s private investigators seem to have it pretty easy compared to those of the past — cell phones, security cameras, and social media accounts are often used to obtain evidence for investigations. Gone are the days when private eyes had to flip through physical documents and phone directories, or find the location of someone with an actual map. And now, thanks to the advancements in drone technology, some investigators are opting to do away with physical surveillance.
A drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is a remote controlled aircraft. Although they have been around for several years, flying personal UAVs is a relatively new hobby. These small crafts have been all over the media lately, even earning the endorsement of Martha Stewart. Like Stewart, many people use drones to take beautiful aerial photos. The market for drones is constantly expanding, and tech companies are keeping pace. Some drones can record a live feed, detect heat, or are small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand. Others can fly four several hours at a time, scanning entire cities in a day.
Due to their discreet nature, private eyes have begun using drones to catch cheating spouses or dishonest employees. Instead of observing someone on foot for hours, investigators can use a drone to get a bird’s eye view of a suspect and collect video evidence. Using a drone is also safer for an investigator and are cheaper than chartering a plane or helicopter. A recent New York Post article featured a private investigator whose specialty is drones. According to the article, the investigator had to use a drone to record evidence of insurance fraud instead of physically surveying the suspect’s property for fear of being shot.
Because of their invasive capabilities, many are questioning the ethics of drone usage, including U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. Schumer recently called for federal regulations on drones, even going as far as proposing a ban on drone usage by private investigators. The idea of anyone being able to purchase a surveillance drone and using it to record whomever and wherever they want is fairly unnerving. The use of personal drones is uncharted territory, filled with flimsy guidelines and little regulation. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits the flying of UAVs for commercial use or payment. Drones are also not permitted to fly over heavily urban areas, and must alert control towers if they fly too close to an airport (FAA Website). Even so, investigators like the one featured in the Post article are still flying their drones.
Should we start expecting to see drones tailing us as we walk down the street? Probably not.
For now, most investigators are opting to stay on the ground and stick to their tried-and-true surveillance techniques. If evidence is gathered illegally, it may lose its value in court, and a private investigator could lose their credibility.
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.”
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.
It wasn’t exactly the crime of the century, but several folks’ nights were ruined last week when a pair of armed robbers attacked a Domino’s delivery driver and made off with $36 worth of chicken wings.
According to reports, the 19-year-old driver was attempting to make a delivery at a residence on the outskirts of Columbus, GA, at around 8:50 p.m. when the two suspects made their move, brandishing what appeared to be a chrome pistol at the unfortunate delivery man.
After one of the suspects, apparently recognizing the delivery man asked, “Is that you, Stevie?” the robbers then demanded, “Give me the wings” before fleeing the scene, leaving the driver unscathed.
It is unknown if the stolen food was actual Buffalo chicken wings, or the boneless Domino’s Buffalo Chicken Kickers…