By Gerry Fischer
In 1981, we bought a Convenient Food Mart in Fort Myers, Florida. It was a good store but was robbed four times. I encouraged the police to stop by, and provided free coffee, donuts, and sandwiches. I appreciated them, and we became friends. Everyone loved them and we felt safer. I know the risk these men and women take to make a living. Sometimes they don’t come home, and dying’s not much of a living. When I sold my interest in our store about 1984, I found an ad for an experienced detective in North Ft. Myers, Florida. I applied and got the job the same day. Fran went with me on my first of several cases, and wrote down the times and notes I dictated. That was nice, but she got very nervous on that first case when she spotted our subject walking out of a neighborhood tavern he was known to frequent. He had recently been released from jail convicted of a stabbing, pled down from attempted murder. She felt first-hand the nervousness. I also learned proof is not necessarily evidence, but sometimes as good. In a company where I worked, a sexual harassment suit was filed. A Scottish soccer player was managing operations. A pretty young lady tried to sell him equipment, and he asked for certain favors if he placed an order. She recorded his phone calls, and rightfully filed a suit against the company and employee. There was a big meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. Our company attorneys, as well as the employee, young lady and her attorney attended. The incriminating tapes were played. Our attorney agreed they were terrible, apologized but said it’s not admissible evidence. I was so proud of the girl’s attorney. This wizened old lawyer, from a little backwater, Florida town, smiled politely, nodded and said, “That’s true, but its “proof,” and could be made public; however, we can settle this matter here today as friends without any unpleasantness.” And they did. Every one ended up smiling except our attorneys and the terminated soccer guy. Her attorney proved a heck of a negotiator, no surprise to me. There are times when a private detective is appropriate and the police are not. Police agencies are limited by law on opening investigations, suspicion of a crime is not a crime. The Federal Government is limited to Federal crimes, and generally doesn’t investigate State, County or local matters, unless they are related to a Federal case. Serving papers takes up lots of police time and often is handled by private detectives. Most detectives are associated and employed by attorneys who need subpoenas served out of town. Not all, and likely a minor amount of private detective investigations, concern domestic divorce cases. Many services are provided for corporations, banks, media companies, doing pre-employment checks, “skip tracing,” bill collecting, repossession and other things. Private detectives are expensive. Most are over $100.00 an hour and some much higher, but they get results and risk personal injury as well as police arrest, for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Most detectives fund themselves for their equipment, cars, cameras, binoculars, office supplies, bail bonds etc. The work, except for agency owners is largely part time. It can be personally rewarding when you help someone, but, it’s also boring, exciting, intriguing and dangerous. My Niece Melanie is a private detective and past President of the Ky. Process Servers Association. I’m very proud of her, and she will inherit the revolver I carried as a private detective.