Hollywood loves the idea of a private investigator digging through evidence to shed light on an unsolved crime. This isn’t strictly fictional, but the role of a private investigator in unsolved crimes probably looks a bit different than you may assume. One of a PI’s greatest assets is simply the fact that they are outside of the police. Not only does this give them a different perspective, but it also gives them more freedom and time to thoroughly investigate leads, clues, and evidence. Armed with those advantages, a private investigator can focus on reexamining witnesses and collecting fresh leads. Their unique professional qualifications make them the perfect individuals to address an unsolved crime.
A Private Investigator Fills a Role Police Cannot
Although our society relies on police to uphold the law and protect the population, the fact is that they cannot solve every single crime that is brought to their attention. Depending on the situation, they may not even be able to begin investigating. Police can only investigate a crime after there is sufficient evidence or probable cause. Even when there is evidence of a crime, that evidence may not be enough to secure a warrant for a suspect. Sometimes, police cannot solve a crime due to resource and manpower restrictions. Police may have to drop an investigation after a certain point in time in order to address other, newer crimes. Cold cases are perfect examples of this problem.
A private investigator does not face the same restrictions as the police. This isn’t because they are above or better than the police. It simply means they face fewer restrictions than law enforcement officers. Although private investigators are still bound by strict laws that protect innocent citizens, they are better equipped and do not have the same chain of command they must follow. These factors allow private eyes to focus on the crime longer and in more detail than many police are able to.
A Private Investigator Collects Evidence
The biggest practical measure a private investigator offers in the case of an unsolved crime is evidence collection. Although this becomes more difficult over time as physical evidence disappears and leads dry up, it’s still possible to bring new information to light, even decades after a crime is committed. Since PIs often work with or for law enforcement, they can communicate quickly and efficiently once they discover relevant information. This allows police to follow protocols that ensure any evidence gathered is admissible in court. Naturally, that’s crucial for successful prosecutions or demonstrations of innocence. Laws vary by region, and one of the most important skills of a private investigator is their thorough knowledge of local restrictions, permissions, and procedures. Private citizens will never be able to gather evidence as quickly, or even legally. PIs are licensed for a reason.
A Private Investigator Reexamines Witnesses
As we mentioned earlier, the police often face limited resources that require them to either make arrests quickly or leave an unsolved crime in a cold case file. They rarely have the opportunity to conduct a second interview with witnesses, family members, friends, and first responders. However, the statements of all of these individuals combine to provide critical information about timelines, past behavior, and fallout after the crime itself. A second or third interview could give investigators tiny clues that change their entire perception of a crime.
It’s also common for stories to change as time goes on. A private investigator is a trained professional, and that training includes interview skills and analysis. They can often bring new leads or information to police based on changes in a witness’s story, additional details family forgot in the heat of the moment, or even developments regarding suspects that took place after a case was shelved. Any of these could help resolve an unsolved crime. A private investigator may even be able to present a full case to the authorities based on their observations and recorded interviews.
A Private Investigator Brings a Fresh Perspective
The more people review a case, the more chance there are that one of those people will spot something new. Even if the evidence itself is old, a private investigator’s perspective could bring closure. This is in part because private investigators are trained differently than the police and law enforcement personnel. They can take more time to consider options and problems since they do not face the same pressures and policies. Sometimes, personal experience may be the deciding factor. Whether a private investigator brings some local insight or questions a local assumption, that new idea could revolutionize how an unsolved case’s evidence is considered.
When a private investigator takes up an unsolved case, they receive the benefits of law enforcement’s earlier work. This lays the foundation for the PI’s own investigation. It’s the difference between a PI and a police detective that make them so effective, however, from the beginning of the process to the case’s conclusion.