Professional private investigators do not care for the image of our fictional counterparts, embedded in the public consciousness as a result of the film noir classics and the popular novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane and others. Recent novelists have broken that mold somewhat, portraying a more realistic version of today’s private investigator, including Bloomington’s own Michael Koryta and his fictional private investigators, Lincoln Perry in his early novels and Markus Novak in “Last Words.” Michael used his experience as an investigator with Trace Investigations during and after his college years to create believable fictional versions while following the powerful story telling techniques of the classic PI novelists. Michael knows we don’t wear gumshoes anymore.

What do you look for when you need the services of a professional investigator, whether you are an attorney, a business owner or a concerned parent? There are five key elements:  

  1. Is the investigation firm licensed and insured? There are only a handful of states that do not license private investigators and require liability insurance. Indiana has licensed PIs since the 1960s. Trace Investigations obtained its first Indiana license in 1990. We were referred to as “Private Detectives” until the codes changed in 2007. You can verify an Indiana PI firm license at the web site of the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, which oversees Indiana’s licensing boards and commissions. Other states have similar sites.
  2. Does the PI firm have a web site? You can learn a lot from a web site. Not only should it provide complete details on the benefits the firm provides to its clients, but it should have a visual impact that shows attention to detail. The devil is in the details holds true in the investigation process.
  3. What is the firm’s reputation? Check the web site for testimonials. Contact a local attorney or your accountant for a referral. Is the firm a member of the local chamber of commerce or a state trade association? There are national and international associations as well. The firm’s web site should mention its affiliations. Has the firm been sued in the local courts? Is there a complaint with the licensing board or attorney general’s office?
  4. Does the firm’s owner or any of the staff carry professional certifications? Professional certifications or advanced degrees are the marks of an individual who knows the value of continuing education and they show advancement and standing in a particular field of endeavor.
  5. Ask for a free consultation. Are you a consumer or business owner with a thorny problem and it seems a PI might be the answer? A reputable firm should provide you with an initial consultation at no cost, to evaluate the situation that led you to them, to see if it is realistic to hire a private investigator. Be suspicious of any PI who guarantees results. Inquire about a contract for services; ask for a copy of the firm’s liability insurance.

Gumshoe is an outdated slang term for a private detective as well as a police detective. In the late 1800s the soles of shoes were made with gum rubber, which made it easier to walk around quietly. The term was popularized in early detective fiction. When looking for a professional private investigator in today’s world, consider the points above as clues, no pun intended.

When you need a reputable, licensed and insured investigator, call Trace Investigations at 800-310-8857.