How to Be a Night Detective

We can't all be police officers, right? Well how about a night detective? Seems like a good idea- daytime Private Investigators (PIs) are constantly concerned with being spotted. It is very difficult to maintain a semblance of innocence when staking out a neighborhood in daylight hours, as it is possible to be seen by many people (one of whom may know and inform the suspect). The only concern is that night-time is dangerous, there are less people around to help you if something should go wrong, therefore you must be extra-vigilant if you are seeking this type of career.


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    You'll need to be licensed. Every state and province has it's own rules about what the requirements are to become a licensed PI. For example, in Ontario, Canada you can be licensed without being employed by an agency (a truly "Private I"), but you need to be licensed if you are looking to find a job with an agency.
    • Depending on what state you work in, you may require a firearm for protection. Ensure that you obey all laws related to firearm ownership (and concealment / etc), as police have a 'chip on their shoulder' for PIs, and will look for your gun. They will probably not be very happy when they find it, unless you've complied with the law.
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    Most contracts for PIs are not as glamorous as portrayed in movies / on television. The principal contractor of PI services is the insurance industry- in an attempt to deduce if a claim for disability (workplace accidents are no exception) is valid.
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    You will need to know how to use a video camera, APS camera, digital camera, and other legal recording devices.
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    You will need to know how to take good notes- notes that can be used in court. Take a night-school class on communications for law enforcement (read: know what the codes mean on your police scanner).
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    Know how to tail a car, and lose a car. Not like in the video games.
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    Seek membership in a professional organization, even if you're employed by a company that contracts PI services- you will learn useful things.
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    Have an escape route. You can use many means to thwart discovery by the suspect. If he comes out to your car and knocks on the window, know exactly what you are going to say.


  • The type of companies that hire PIs are normally the same ones that hire in-store detectives to contract out for large department stores. Ask the 'detectives' in these stores who they work for, they can probably direct you to a company where you can ask more questions.
  • Above all, be careful, be trained, be prepared to meet any type of situation that may come your way, including dogs, guns, knives, and hostile persons (not necessarily the suspect).
  • Be serious-thinking all the time when on the job, your very life depends on it. There are many horror stories of detectives meeting with an angry suspect who discovered them.
  • Don't get into this type of work if you can't handle stress.


  • There are laws to protect people and property at night. Always obey the law, otherwise you're no better in the eyes of the law than the suspect- in most cases, even worse.
  • Even being near a residence after dark is illegal in some places. Be aware of the laws, and do what you can to stay in that 'grey area' that all PIs thrive in.

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Categories: Careers in Government | Legal Careers