Friday, August 27, 2010

[FIND] Vice

Thomas Sullivan Magnum

Okay, so you either love him or hate him. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of, “Well, he’s alright.” Either pure affection or pure vitriol. Wherever you stand, it’s clear that Magnum has earned his place in history. (I hate to admit it, but I fall into the adoration column. Seriously, I grew up on this show. It is, in large part, responsible for me being a private investigator today. Seriously…does that make me a geek?)

Magnum, our self-effacing hero, was one of TV’s most likeable characters, which is, some would say, his biggest flaw. There was no real “dark side” to Magnum. He was simply a hapless
gadabout who spent his days solving mysteries and hanging out at the King Kamehameha club with his two best pals, Rick and TC. When not on the job or at the club playing volleyball or surf-paddling, Magnum frittered away an inordinate amount of time at what can only be described as theworld’s coolest bachelor pad, Robin's Nest, where he continually agitated and annoyed Jonathan Quail Higgins (aka - Higgins, Higgy-baby, etc.).

No man has ever come close to doing as much for the Hawaiian shirt as Magnum. His shorts are still the unrivaled gold standard for men’s summer fashion. And the Ray Ban Shooters sunglasses…well… they’re on the way back. As for style, let us just ponder the one accoutrement that we all remember best: the Ferrari.

Aah, the Ferrari 308 GTS, tag # ROBIN 1. That candy-apple-red-steel-bodied-mid-engine-rear-wheel-drive babe-magnet. (Trivia: Due to Selleck’s rangy 6’4” frame, all of the cars used in the show had to have the seat cushions removed and the seat rails repositioned as far back as possible…and still his head sticks up over the windscreen.)

Magnum’s fondness for cigars and Coop’s beer are well known, but there were enough umbrella drinks in his hand over the 8 seasons Magnum, P. I. was on the air to consider Magnum a bit of a cocktail man as well, which brings us to the fun part…pairing Thomas Sullivan Magnum with a cocktail.

The Cocktail

We turn once again to our resident expert in spirits, Josh Habiger, manager of The Patterson House, Nashville’s very own speakeasy. Josh says, “Well, the man is living in Hawaii, so I had to go with something tropical.” Unable to find a concoction that, of its own accord, was worthy of Magnum, Josh created this month's tipple, the Jungle Bird (named after the bright red bird pattern on Magnum’s Hawaiian Shirt. Editor’s note: I actually own one of these.)

“This is a riff on a Cuban drink called a ‘Hotel Nacional,’” says Habiger, “subbing out the classic apricot brandy for a bit of Saigon Cinnamon syrup, to represent Magnum’s time in Vietnam.” Habiger calls this, “The perfect drink for a perfect Hawaiian day.” Here’s the recipe. Stay thirsty my friends.

The Jungle Bird

2 oz. Flor de Cana 4yr Rum

1 oz. Fresh Pineapple Juice

.75 oz Fresh Lime juice

.5 oz Saigon Cinnamon Syrup

.25 oz Simple Syrup

and 2 dashes of Regan's Orange Bitters #6

Place all ingredients in a shaker, add ice, shake, and strain into a rocks glass over ice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Advice to Clients: Don't Sabotage Your Case

A lot of our fellow PIs on the criminal investigations side of things eschew the very idea of taking on domestic cases. For some, spending hours, days, or weeks tracking a straying wife or husband feels less important than interviewing prosecution witnesses, and a few seem to think there's a tawdriness to divorce cases and domestic disputes that leaves them feeling a bit....dirty.

But domestic cases, if approached with understanding and respect, are not only good business, but can also be important, rewarding work. After all, what matters more in people's lives than family? Generally, domestic clients hire us because they and their loved ones are at some kind of painful crossroads. They suspect that a family member is surreptitiously buying illegal drugs, associating with criminals, having an affair, or neglecting children. Some clients are so filled with fear, insecurity, and suspicion that they need an objective outsider to collect solid evidence for them, to illuminate the darkness of those raging emotions with the cold, hard light of irrefutable facts.

A professional, ethical investigator has a responsibility in cases like these to speak candidly with clients, whose minds are often clouded by anger or feelings of betrayal and helplessness. It's crucial to clearly define the scope of each job before beginning. What is the client looking for? What specific facts will establish the truth? And how does the client intend to use those facts after the investigation is over?

Here are a few basic ideas we try to communicate to clients, to make sure we are giving them exactly what they need, to avoid wasting people's money on unnecessary surveillance, and to prevent people from sabotaging their own cases:

1. We are not therapists. Although we will listen with empathy and respect, you should consider speaking to a professional counselor about the trauma you're experiencing, whether it's a divorce, an affair, a spouse's addiction, or a child custody battle. A great counselor is well worth his fee.

2. Do not attempt to do your own PI work. Once you've hired us, do not follow, photograph, stake out, or surveille the person you've hired us to investigate, and do not send your friends to eyeball his driveway. He knows your car (and theirs) and all your moves, and you will most likely tip him off to the fact that he's being watched. That puts him on his guard, makes our job ten times harder, and costs you lots more money in surveillance fees in the long run.

3. Do not confront her. Until the case is closed, resist the urge to call her out on the information we've just delivered to you about her suspicious whereabouts last night. "How did you know that?" she'll say. For the repercussions of this, refer to the latter half of #2. Confronting is your lawyer's job. You're paying your lawyer a lot of money, so don't sabotage their work by showing your hand too early.

4. Keep your distance. While the investigation is in progress, it's best not to call him, drive by his house late at night, or rifle through his trash bin, no matter how crazy your obsessive thoughts are driving you. Keep your contact with him as minimal as possible, and keep it low-drama. Again, see #2.

5. Be honest and realistic about what you want from us. If possible, think in specifics about what exact information you want and what you will do with it. Often, clients become so emotional about their cases that they aren't sure when to quit. Once we collect the damning piece of evidence, or a series of facts that establish a behavior pattern, stop while you're ahead. And then make a concrete plan with your attorney about how you will use the information to achieve your goals, whether they be gaining legal custody of kids, gaining an advantage in mediation, or confronting a spouse in a measured way about a troubling behavior.

6. Micromanaging doesn't work. We do this for a living, let us apply our expertise. If we suggest 2 or 3 investigators for a complicated moving surveillance one day, it's because we really do need them. We absolutely will not nickel-and-dime you. We want to apply the proper tools and techniques to the job at hand, and sometimes that costs a bit of money. Paying three investigators for one productive night's surveillance is often less expensive than paying one investigator for several days of solo (read burned) surveillance. What you don't want is to waste your money by paying someone to perform a futile task. And believe me, moving surveillance through downtown at rush hour is (at the very best) difficult with three investigators and entirely futile with just one.

7. Offer us full disclosure. The more useful information you give us, the easier our jobs become, and the more efficiently we can work. (And the more money you save.) Be sure and get us any information you can about our subject and anyone else we need to observe: full name, physical description, photographs, SS#, vehicle make and model, plate numbers, personal habits, workout schedule, favorite haunts, work location and hours--all that helps us find the subject and make an educated guess about where they are going next.

In summary, we're more than happy to handle domestic cases. But in order to do the job you need us to do, it's essential that you let us do our work. We always tell our clients, "Let your lawyer handle the legal stuff, talk to a therapist about the emotional stuff, and let us take care of the snooping." Do this..and you'll spend less money overall and will be far more likely to find the answers your were looking for in the first place.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Storied New York PI May Have Solved 1971 Hijacking Mystery

On AARP's "Prime Time Radio" program, public radio producer Jon Kalish tells the story of New York private investigator Skipp Porteous. The former evangelical minister became disillusioned with religion, and in his twenties, started doing skip traces with the LA Dept. of Water and Power, looking for customers who hadn't paid their bills.

The 66-year-old Porteus has since infiltrated neo-Nazi groups for the FBI, crusaded against religious-right extremists, and believes he may have discovered the true identity of a notorious aircraft hijacker who was never brought to justice.

New York Magazine profiled Porteus in a 2007 feature and tells the story of that legendary 1971 hijacking, the hijacker's subsequent disappearance, and Porteus's drive to crack the case. Read the story here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

San Francisco PD Outsources Police Work to Civilian Investigators

Today, NPR's Morning Edition host interviewed San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon about a pilot program the SFPD is launching which will train civilian investigators to respond to low-level crimes not in progress, such as burglaries and auto thefts.

Chief Gascon hopes that letting non-police investigators do some of the legwork on these non-violent crimes will speed the process of responding to and collecting evidence at lower-priority crime scenes, will take some of the pressure off dwindling city funds for law enforcement, and will free up police officers to respond to more urgent calls and to investigate violent and other serious crimes, such as gang-related activity.

"So at the end of the day, you end up with a better preliminary investigation with a collection of evidence," says Gascon, who admits that busy officers often take hours to respond to burglary and theft calls. "...Civilians are just as able to be trained to have a great level of skills and handle evidence in court as well as sworn." (courtesy of NPR)

Chief Gascon hopes the program will be up and running by early next year.

For an AP brief on this topic from the New York Times, go here.