Private Investigator vs. Police: The Missing Person’s Dilemma

Looking for a missing person can be very difficult to do on your own. The first thing most people think of is asking help from police to track down the person they are looking for, but you also have the option to seek help from a private investigator. What’s the difference between these two options, and why would you consider picking one over the other? Let’s take a closer look to find out.

Police Assistance

The police (more specifically, the detectives) are government personnel that work for police departments on a local, state, or even federal level. Depending on the extent of their jurisdiction, the police can investigate leads and interview possible witnesses to find information about a missing person. If necessary, a police detective can make an arrest to capture a missing person.

Private Investigator

Private investigators are certain individuals that come from various backgrounds (usually police/law enforcement) and use their skills and experience to look for leads. Although there’s no standard requirement for private investigators, they must still be properly licensed as proof that they have the skills necessary for tracking down people. Some work for private agencies, while others are complete freelancers.

Key Differences

Despite both having the tools to track missing people, there are certain differences between getting help from the police and hiring a private investigator. Knowing the pros and cons of both options will let you pick the more appropriate choice, depending on the circumstances.

  • Manpower – There are times when finding a person will heavily rely on having as many people on the case as possible. Police detectives can take advantage of their connection to the authorities and the amount of manpower that most private detectives don’t have.
  • Access to Information – Police detectives have easier access to law enforcement records to find clues about the person they are looking for. On the other hand, private detectives have to rely on making connections with people or even negotiating with government entities to access such information.
  • Versatility – Police are effective within their area of jurisdiction, but they might be restricted by the law to a certain extent. On the other hand, private investigators are not bound by these restrictions, which means they can acquire evidence or work in areas that police detectives don’t normally have access to, provided they are not breaking any law.
  • Response Times – To help make sure the search for a person is justified, it’s common for police searches to wait for a 24-hour “grace period” before declaring a person is missing. After that, they may have to file a report and may not even be able to start a search if they know the missing person went missing on their own free will. On the other hand, most private investigators will search for a missing person as soon as possible.
  • Purpose – Police cases on missing persons are either done to apprehend or rescue the missing individual. On the other hand, a private investigation can look for missing people for other reasons such as looking for biological parents, delivering inheritance, and collecting debt.

Looking at the differences, choosing between the police and private investigators boils down to the scope and nature of the case. If you’re looking for a person within the police jurisdiction, getting help from police detectives is a better option because of their connections to the authorities. Beyond that, hiring a private investigator is a more attractive option.

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