What are the most commonly used techniques for delivering investigative services, and what are the pros and cons of using a female Private Investigator?
Remember that the Private Investigator does not have police powers and has to rely solely on wits, diligence, and sustainable, legal means to gather information. Otherwise, the PI will not be in business for long.
The three mainstays of the investigation business are surveillance, interview, and public record. Women are certainly capable of handling all three with ease.
While it might be harder for a good-looking woman to melt into the background than a man, all Private Investigators must learn this skill. Can you imagine doing a surveillance job wearing a bright red dress and stiletto heels? Just like male investigators, female investigators learn how to mute the colors and dress for blending in. They can also use tricks such as changing sweaters at intervals while tailing a suspect, so the suspect does not realize that he or she is being watched. Also, women tend to pick up on the styling that is predominant in various sections of town. Dressing too fancy in certain neighborhoods will call attention, and dressing too poorly in other sections will draw attention also. Adjusting makeup and accessories will also play a role.
Another aspect of surveillance that is often overlooked is the verbal skill of blending in. On the off chance that the Private Investigator is drawn into an unwanted conversation, the investigator has to know how to talk the talk and quickly disengage while not arousing any suspicions.
While studies show that women tend to be more aware of semantics and language and more articulate than men overall, women have to deal with nonverbal cues that will attract males, no matter how good their conversational skills. I’ve known women who would purposely pad their bodies to make them look a little pudgy to avoid unwanted male attention while tracking a suspect. This, in conjunction with using street vernacular, helps them. It might seem absurd, and it might not speak highly of societal realities for women, but women who want to remain in private investigative work seem to take these realities in stride and take pride in winning the information they are seeking.
When it comes to interviews, women tend to excel. People, whether male or female, tend to be comfortable confiding in their female friends. Linguist Deborah Tannen’s research showed that women tend to make more encouraging comments while listening, such as, “Uh, huh,” or “I see.” This often makes other women feel important and appreciated during conversations with a female Private Investigator. It often makes men feel that the woman listener agrees with him, even if the woman is only trying to communicate that she’s hearing what he said. In either case, women obviously have some advantages in interviewing, even if it’s only due to societal beliefs that women are not as threatening as men.
Private Investigators rely heavily on public records. This includes sales of real estate, birth and death certificates, licensing, and everything else imaginable. There are public records for just about every area of life. Women tend to be very patient when going through massive quantities of paperwork.
Women are often more open to alternative theories and sometimes this use of imagination results in finding the answer, even if it wasn’t the most likely one. This ability to not only find and catalog facts, but to put them together cohesively, adds to the effectiveness of female Private Investigators.
There is one more absolutely essential factor in investigations. That is the use of paid informants who will introduce an investigator to people who might have information as to what really happened. While risky, it is sometimes absolutely necessary to associate personally with a suspect who may have committed a crime and has every incentive to cover it up. Women, while perhaps more easily introduced to a crime circle because of their ability to seem less intrusive and more desirable, also take a huge risk. If they associate with a group like this for long, it becomes more dangerous with time. Therefore, they have to have some street smarts to compensate for the risk, and they have to be willing to get out as soon as they have the information they need. The need for plausible cover stories is very important here.
Paradoxically, there is no stereotype that fits everybody. You could easily find a male Private Investigator who comes across as very easy to talk to and very nonthreatening, while you could also find female Private Investigators who push the boundaries of assertiveness and could frighten a suspect into spilling the beans. The world is tending towards more equalized opportunity based on abilities rather than stereotypes.
Any activity in life has risks. The risks of private investigation are very real. However, our own experience with women investigators indicates that women can play vital and effective roles in investigative services, helping many people in the process.