Posts

The Reason You Got Burned: Your Window Tint

So, you’re a private investigator on a stakeout. It’s a bright, sunny day. You’re in your car in a fixed surveillance position and your Subject somehow becomes aware of you. Did you get burned because of your window tint?

The Setup

As a P.I. window tint is a must – it keeps you out of view from neighbors, onlookers, and of course, your Subject.

But, before slapping some on your windows, it’s important to know your state’s laws and general info.

Each state has laws for the front side, backside, rear windows, windshield, and reflectivity.

When you see data on window tint, you’ll see it categorized by percentage.

Rule of thumb: The lower the percentage, the DARKER the tint, and less sunlight can come into your car. The higher the percentage the lighter the tint and more sun can come in.

tint law rule of thumb

I went ahead and linked to the laws in all 50 states (click here)tint laws in 50 statesHere’s a handy little US map for the level of tint allowed from front side windows:

Let’s take Ohio and Kentucky for example, the states in which I’m licensed.

The front side window is at 35%. This means you can’t have a tint that allows less than 35% of the rays on your front side window.

It’s 18% on both the rear side and rear back windows. So you can go darker tint there.

The windshield tint allows that you can place a strip of tint to the top of the car manufacturer’s “AS-1” line.

as-1

The AS-1 line is a line extending from the AS-1, found on most motor vehicle windshields.

It runs parallel to the top of the windshield or at about 5 inches.

In Ohio, only 50% is allowed on front side windows.

But any level, even limo tint, is allowed on the rear side and rear back windows. So, we can go crazy there.

In Ohio, we can tint our front windshield to less than 70%.

My two cents: if you can, get your rear side and back windows as dark as possible.

Especially, if you have an SUV or minivan. When you add dark tint to the rear windows, they don’t seem to change the look of your car that much.

That’s because most factory-made large vehicles come with a high level of rear tint as it is.

But, if you can match the front and back window tint, I tend to go that route.

It’s visually appealing and it makes your car blend in well.

My cars also have had the 5” band across the top of the windshield.

Though some installers won’t put it there if you a “frit” band. Those tiny little dots around the edge of your windshield.

frit band

I avoid reflective tint, because it stands out – it doesn’t blend in too well.

I’m not against limo tint.

But if you’re parked for extended periods in your car in a suburban area, it might bring more attention than less.

When it comes to the law though, I actually could receive a fine for my tint.

I’d be willing to pay that fine.

In my 15 years of driving with “illegal” tint, I’ve never been pulled over and never been cited for it.

I chalk it up to that police officers aren’t looking to cite someone for window tint. It’s a minor offense and since so many already have it, it’s not worth it for them to stop me.

So, depending on how aggressive your local PD is, it’s up to you how “illegal” you want to tint your windows.

Also, some states allow exemptions. Under some state laws, private investigators can get exemptions on window tinting.

So check your local statutes and revised code for those details.

Quick Tint Tips

Even though you have window tint, the sun can shine through, exposing your silhouette.

#1 – Make sure you angle your car to avoid direct sun glare.

I always like to park with the sun at the back of my car if I can and not blasting through the front window.

In cold months, the sun is low and can do that to you.

#2 – Find some shade wherever you park.

When I find a stationary spot and park on the street, I usually try to park where there is an overhanging tree.

It doubles the effectiveness of your car’s tint.

#3 – I always have a front window shade to block out any sun coming in the front window and any onlookers.

I get shades that you can pop in and out quickly into your front windshield.

#4 – If you’re in a van or larger vehicle, sitting in the rear seats and using window curtains are huge too.

Passersby seem to only pay attention to who is in the driver’s seat and don’t notice people in the back seat.

Curtains block out any silhouette.

Also, some minivans come stock with mesh shades that pull up from the sliding door.

So you may not even need curtains on the side windows.

#5 – If you’re renting a vehicle and don’t want to use your own to save on mileage, I always ask for an SUV or minivan.

They come stock with factory-level rear side and back window shade.

The front windows aren’t tinted, but I assume I’ll be sitting in the rear of the vehicle anyways.

Over to you…

What percentage do you have in your windows?

Have you ever been given a ticket for illegal window tint?

Comment below. Let me know.

The Reason You Got Burned: Notifying (or not notifying) Local Police

Let’s talk about how you could get burned by failing to properly notify the local police while on surveillance.

This topic is gonna get some people talking from both sides.

The Setup

Should you notify the local law enforcement prior to starting surveillance, or should you not?

I’ve never come to a consensus on this topic – everyone has their own beliefs.

And that’s okay.

But the underlying issue is that the last thing I’d want a P.I. to have happen to them is that they’ll be sitting out on surveillance minding their own business, and all of sudden a cop comes rolling in behind them and blows the surveillance.

Maybe, as the cops are taking down your info or verifying your license, the Subject leaves.

Not only do they see your “suspicious” car with a cop behind it, now mentally taking a note of your car, but now you can’t follow them.

Or the neighbors know you’re in the area because of the cop, and they post a picture or comment about you being in the area on a local Facebook group or the Next Door app.

And the next thing you know, you’re burned.

I’ve had cops roll up on me all the time while on was on surveillance, even when I called them beforehand, but luckily never while my Subject left.

But, I’ve seen it happen.

The Fix

My standard policy is to call local law enforcement beforehand.

I like the idea that I can keep the police department away from my position by simply providing the dispatcher all my pertinent information, like the make and model of my car, my name, and my vehicle’s license plate number.

I typically will say something like, “Hi, this Adam Visnic, I’m a licensed private investigator, conducting surveillance in the area.”

And, just to make sure this is indeed their jurisdiction, I’ll give them a nearby address, not the Subject’s address (ever), and ask if that’s their jurisdiction.

If they say it’s theirs, I’ll tell them generalities about how long I’ll be there that day and 100% get their dispatcher ID or name.

It’s always good to have that for reference because if a cop rolls up, you can state exactly who you talked to at their office.

If it’s not, ask them who you should call.

That should do it.

I’m of the mindset that you get more flies with honey rather than vinegar and try to put a good phone voice on for them.

I wouldn’t want to pull the old “mind your business” card and tick them off.

Especially now, I just don’t want to give them a reason to check on me.

You might expect a drive-by of a cop and sometimes a quick glance or wave, but hopefully, that’s it.

On the other side of the aisle, I also understand why you wouldn’t notify cops.

They might know why you’re in the area. Maybe in a rural area or any small town, the local LEOs are related to your Subject or they hang out with them and are friends.

Or they know everyone, and they’re pissed you’re in the area on their turf.

I can count on one hand, in the dozens and dozens of cops I’ve spoken to that were legit A+ assholes.

But, many of the PIs who are watching this were former police and were never that way.

99% are nice and understanding of our job.

Some do just have it out for us, and I do know a lot of PIs who have a grievance against talking with cops.

I’ve had one cop total ask me to step out of the car, and frisk me, because I didn’t call them beforehand. One in 10 years.

The Choice

So at the end of the day, it’s really up to you.

If you do interact with a cop, be cordial and respectful as always.

If you’re carrying a concealed weapon, let them know ASAP.

And, trade business cards with them just so you know with who you had contact.

Leave them with a good taste in their mouth, because there is a chance you’ll be out there again.

As a rule, I’ll never tell the cops if they ask, who I’m watching. I’ll say instead of let’s say a workers’ comp case, it’ll become a cheating spouse case in the area.

If they get fussy, I’ll say simply (deep sigh) “I wish I could, but the case is backed by the attorney-client privilege. I promise I’d divulge that If I could.”

Over to you…

What do you do on surveillance?

Call the local police or not?

Comment below and let me know.

The Reason You Got Burned: Driving By Too Slowly

The Reason You Got Burned: Driving By Too Slowly

So, you’re a private investigator on surveillance and you got burned and you don’t know why. Was it because you drove past your Subject’s house too slowly?

The Setup 

So, drive-by video. I learned this lesson early on in my career.

It became ingrained in my brain.

Why?

Because I was assigned to a two-person surveillance operation on workers’ compensation claimant in a rural area of Ohio. Like, we’re talking Amish country people. You’ve got horse and buggy, oxen plowing fields, and epic Amish beards.

But, the reason it was a two-man operation wasn’t that it was so rural, but because the previous investigative team (not from our firm) had been burned on it before.

So, our Claimant was already “heated up.”

And we knew why – the client had provided the previous report and video to us, so we knew what they had done wrong.

This Claimant lived on a country road, and the previous investigators had driven past the house too often, and, too slowly.

Eventually, the claimant, who had a residence with a huge bay window at the front of his house, caught on to the drive-bys.

I mean, he probably knew all his neighbors’ cars as it was, and seeing two cars he’d never seen before drive by every half-hour alerted him.

And this was all in the report – the claimant actually got into his own car and tailed the investigators out of the county.

The Problem

Look, I get it. When you first get onsite to a residence, your natural inclination is to a good establishing shot. You wanna get a shot of the house, the layout, note the plates and vehicles on-site, on top of any action that might be going on.

But that doesn’t mean driving along the road at normal speeds and then all of sudden, dropping it down to a crawl to get some drive-by footage.

That’s a disaster in the making.

So, I’m here to help.

The Fix

First, obviously, don’t ever drive by the house too slowly. There’s no reason for it.

When you do drive-bys, go at a normal speed every time. As if you were an average joe living in the area.

But when you’re shooting video, get the house in the frame early and pan left or right as you pass the house.

Also, while this is going on, zoom in at first and then zoom out wide as you pass by the house to frame everything up nicely.

It’ll take some practice to both stay on the road with one hand and pan and zoom with your camera hand.

The key is to keep it steady. Keep it level.

This isn’t shaky cam footage Jason Bourne.

If you wanna get really fancy you can get ahold of a window mount, one with a suction cup, and fix your camcorder or even a dash camera to the second-row window of your surveillance vehicle.

Press record, do the drive-by, and later edit out what’s unnecessary.

There’s a link below to a mount to get you started: https://amzn.to/2Yh1NWO

Second, especially in rural areas, limit your drive-bys to every hour or so.

You can certainly do drive-bys every half-hour, but only when you feel you need to.

Like if there have been multiple cars coming and going from the residential area, it’s lunchtime for the Claimant, or something similar.

And don’t just come back up the road in which you initially drove down. Give it time.

Driving by the house within a couple of minutes of each other is suspicious.

Instead, drive by the first time and “flank” back to your original surveillance position by going around the “block” assuming there’s another route to get to your original spot.

However, if the residence is in a hollow (like in Kentucky), like a no-outlet street, I’d limit my drive-bys to every two hours.

And, I know what you’re thinking – I could use drone footage or an unmanned surveillance camera hidden in a rock or safety cone to get static video.

Hold your horses, James Bond. That’s a video for another day.

For now, let’s just stick with the basics.

Third, hide your camera.

It may sound simple but what’s worked for me is to actually place my camera hand or monopod on the top of my left arm to stabilize and hide the camera.

I’ll do this if the residence is on my left side.

If the residence is on my right side, I’ll actually place my camera behind the passenger side headrest to get drive-by footage.

These simple methods help to prevent people from seeing my camera through my front windshield as I drive by.

This is me trying to be as casual as possible.

Lastly, and I can’t believe I have to say this but close your windows when filming drive-bys.

If you can’t get the footage because your windows are foggy or dirty, clean those things before getting onsite for crying out loud.

Overall, use the KISS method – keep it simple, stupid.

Drive by the residence like a normal person would (not too slowly!), limit drive-bys to every hour, hide your camera, and keep your windows up.

And, just in case you were wondering. Even with the knowledge of the previous investigation, we still couldn’t get much of anything on that Claimant in rural Ohio. But, at least he didn’t tail us.

Anybody wanna volunteer to take that case??

Over to you…

What ways can you prevent from getting burned?

Comment below.

The Reason You Got Burned: Following Too Closely

The Reason You Got Burned: Following Too Closely

Have you ever had your Subject look in the rearview mirror at you?

Slow down on the highway?

Do a U-turn right in front of you?

You might be burned and it may have been because you were tailing your Subject too closely.

The Setup

As a disclaimer, if you’re not licensed as a private investigator, please don’t go out and start following people. Just cause you watched this, doesn’t give you the right to tail someone. Serious consequences will follow if you get caught.

Additionally, this is for training and practice purposes only – just use it for entertainment.

Watch the video above for details on how to follow your Subject on surveillance.

The Four Big Takeaways

First, use a buffer car. Avoiding your Subject’s ability to see your car’s profile in their rearview mirror is huge. A buffer car is a car between you and your Subject. Use them whenever you can.

Second, to avoid staying behind or getting too close, use other lanes. And then circle back as I did.

Third, don’t stop unnecessarily just because they did. The guy pulled a u-turn, and just parked in front of his house. The temptation was to stop, capture some video, and perhaps make it obvious that he’s being followed. Instead, I proceeded onward, knowing he was parking and allowed him to exit out of view.

Fourth, know your map. Have a GPS or your phone mounted on your dash up so you know the lay of the land. Is your Subject turning down a no-outlet street? Getting near the highway? Heading back home? You’ll need to know in advance, and knowing the roads in your city and state is a must.

Over to You…

What ways have avoided getting burned on mobile surveillance?

What methods have worked for you?

Comment below. Let me know.

We Asked 40 P.I.s “What Camera Is In Your Bag?” Here Are Their Answers

Old School vs. New School

REVISED: You can’t succeed as a private eye if you’re not constantly learning. Ditch some of your old school ways and find the new stuff!

I’m A Private Eye Looking For A Stealthy Ride For $20,000! What Car Should I Buy?

I’m a private investigator and I need a new car.

But, I hate car shopping.

So, I asked my fellow bloggers and auto junkies at Jalopnik, “What Car Should I Buy?”

It’s a weekly segment they do: these dudes (NOT SALESMEN) help REAL people find ACTUAL vehicles for sale.

And then they hilariously write about it.

Check out their advice for me.

“Adam is a private investigator who spends hours behind the wheel getting the scoop and tracking bad guys. He needs a ride that is good for work and family, something that can blend in but still looks professional. What car should he buy?

Unlike Magnum P.I., Adam doesn’t work in Hawaii, and for him to nab the bad guys, stealth, patience, and diligence are key. Therefore, he needs one that he can spend a lot of time in, but won’t be noticed easily.

Here is the scenario:

I’m a private investigator and business owner who needs both a surveillance vehicle for tracking down bad guys out in the field, but one that also doubles as respectable business owner’s ride for when I pull up to sales calls and client meetings. My current SUV (a 2006 GMC Envoy Denali) is at 200,000 miles and like any one at that mileage, needs to be replaced.

I’ve got a budget of about $20,000 and the biggest thing is this car must be unremarkable. It’s got to blend in. No sports cars, nothing weird or funky. Also, in addition to hauling my gear, I use the car to tote my family around to events and such so it needs to be practical as well.”

Tell me which one I should BUY in the COMMENTS below!!

Click here to read the full story: http://jalopnik.com/im-a-private-eye-looking-for-a-stealthy-ride-for-20-00-1793549299

Which one should I buy? Reply in the comments!

  1. 2013 Toyota Siena
  2. 2016 Chrysler Town and County
  3. Toyota Avalon
  4. 2013 Suzuki Kizashi
  5. 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited
  6. Ford Mustang

Investigating in Italy — An Interview with Alberto Paoletti

This interview was originally posted in Pursuit Magazine.

You are transported back in time as you walk along Via dei Calzaiuoli, Florence, Italy’s main pedestrian street. It is a wide, cobblestoned walkway stretching several hundred yards from the historic, domed Florence Cathedral, or simply “Duomo,” to the famous Palazzo Vecchio. Historical figures like Michelangelo, Dante, and Leonardo da Vinci called this place home. And so does Alberto Paoletti, private investigator (PI).

In Florence for my wife’s work assignment, continuing to attend graduate school, and operating my own private investigations business remotely, I looked up local private investigators online in hopes of connecting with one. There, I found Alberto.

So I threw on my suit and tie, and after a 20-minute walk from my apartment, mustered up the courage to knock on his office door. The goal was to simply drop off my business card, but I got much more than I bargained for. Alberto invited me into his office, and we sat down for an interview and talked shop for almost an hour. He turned out to be an incredibly nice and accommodating man.

A few days later, Alberto graciously took time out of his busy day for an interview. Here is an excerpt from that interview (special thanks to Google Translate for helping Alberto and me bridge the gap from Italian to English):

Background Check

ADAM: Thanks for sitting down for an interview. Let our readers get to know you. Where are you from?

ALBERTO: I was born and raised in Florence, Italy. I hope to die here someday as well (laughing)!

ADAM: Where did you go to school?

ALBERTO: I went to a very good technical school in Florence, Duca d’Aosta Institute, and studied business. I have also taken master classes in crime and business, each lasting 2-3 months.

ADAM: How old are you?

ALBERTO: Too old (smiling). I was born in 1945.

ADAM: How long have you been a private investigator?

ALBERTO: I’ve been a private investigator since 1969. I started my own company when I was 25 years old.

ADAM: How did your career get started?

(Alberto points to a portrait of a uniformed man on his office’s back wall.) My uncle was Carabinieri or, Italy’s military police. He was counter-espionage in World War II and received his military pension very young. Using that pension, he was able to start his own firm investigating commercial businesses for bank clients. An economic boom in Italy helped my uncle’s business grow. In ten years, my uncle had enough business to buy three apartments!

This was a very big deal, as all of my uncle’s work was word-of-mouth. There were no license requirements back then, and he had no office. I helped my uncle during summers when I was just 15 years old (laughing). I would do surveillance on a Vespa even back then (revving mock handlebars), following behind my uncle’s car on cases. But that was the start of my career.

ADAM: I’m picturing you in a Fiat 500. Did you ever use one to do surveillance?

ALBERTO: Oh, yes! I would [shade] people in a Fiat 500, then later an 800, and eventually a Fiat 1000!

Mission Accomplished

adam alberto palazzo vecchio

In front of the Palazzo Vecchio

ADAM: What made you want to be a private investigator?

ALBERTO: At first, I didn’t really want to be a private detective, nor did I think I would end up as one. After I graduated from school, I wanted to be an employee at a bank or in a public office. But I found out quickly that I hated my bank job and the idea of being an employee.

So I traveled to Germany at 19 years old. I lived in Bonn for one year, learned about the import/export business, and took up the German language. After I came back to Florence, one day I was selling items in the street with my friends. And (snapping his fingers) the light bulb just went off, and I understood that doing private investigations was ideal for me. I could be independent, I could be free, and I could create something. I was willing to work at any hour – not just 10-6, as most Italians do.

So, I worked for two years as an employee at another firm to gain experience. Once I finished my two years, I asked for the company license, received it, and in one month I was able to open an office in the center of Florence. This was during another economic boom in Italy.

“I understood that doing private investigations was ideal for me. I could be independent, I could be free”

ADAM: How did learning German and English help you as an investigator and business owner?

ALBERTO: Speaking many languages helps to build relationships. We work so often with other countries in the European Union, not just with Germans. It is important to have many connections, and speaking their language helps support that.

The Business End

ADAM: Who was your first client?

ALBERTO: My first client was Mercantile Bank, which went out of business a while ago. I did commercial inquiries for them. After one month, I had my first employee, a secretary. Her salary was about €30 (approximately $34 U.S. dollars) per month back then! I then bought my first typewriter and telephone, which are still collecting dust in my office today. I learned how to type on an old Olivetti typewriter.

ADAM: Where was your first office located?

ALBERTO: My first office was just north of the Duomo, and my second office is here on Via dei Calzaiuoli. It’s amazing to think I’ve walked past the Duomo every morning on the way to work for the last 50 years!

ADAM: What does your typical day look like?

ALBERTO: I am now more of a broker of investigations. I have employees who do the dirty work for me, and I am the … table worker?

ADAM: “Desk worker?”

ALBERTO: Yes. I am the desk worker. Of course, I used to do all of the work when I was younger, but now my young investigators do the fieldwork. I am always on the phone speaking with investigators and clients. I also manage the schedule because I feel it is very important. (note: Indeed, during our interview, Alberto leaves multiple times to take calls.)

ADAM: How many employees do you have?

ALBERTO: I have about 12 employees who do commercial work for me. For investigations, I have two full-time investigators, 2-3 part-time employees, and one or two interns.

alberto and adam filiming TV segment

Filming a segment for Italian public TV

Best-Case Scenario

ADAM: What was your favorite case?

ALBERTO: There are so many. We are currently investigating a tragic criminal case where a little boy fell and died. We have to determine whether or not the fall was intentional or accidental. It was very sad. Solving this case is not my favorite, but helping the family will bring us great fulfillment.

Another was a matrimonial (infidelity) case. A man’s wife wanted me to follow her husband. She suspected he was cheating on her. So, I sent my detective on the surveillance to follow the husband. After two days, my detective called me and said, “The husband is coming to the office to see you.” I said, “Did you get [burned]?!” The detective said, “Absolutely not!”

I was confused, but later that day the man showed up at my office. I sat down with him and asked what he wanted. He asked, “Can you follow my wife? I think she is cheating on me (laughing).” Naturally, I could not help this man and told him so.

We also had an international case. Our client was a very rich and important man. He was the CEO of a public company, and he had given some shares of his company and a personal company bank account to his wife. Therefore, she was now a shareholder and an employee of the company. However, the man found out that his wife had fallen in love with another person, the owner of a club in the Maldives, and had run off with this new man.

The client wanted us to fly to the Maldives and photograph his wife with the club-owner. I could not go, so I sent a rookie detective there to film them. The detective stayed on the islands for over a week and took many photos of the wife and the new man. With the evidence, we were able to stop the money and shares of the company from going to the wife. But my investigator believed that working in paradise was normal (laughing)! He thought the job was like this every day!

ADAM: What is your favorite aspect of the work?

ALBERTO: The human relationship with the client. I must be a psychologist and not just an investigator. Also, if I’m able to solve the case, I have a rush of satisfaction. There are many negatives of this line of work, but one of the best parts is that I get to work for those who have been scammed, the victims of injustice. We are different than [defense] lawyers in that way; we don’t defend the bad or criminals. We work for the victims. As a result, I feel I have a moral success.

ADAM: What is the least favorite part of your job?

ALBERTO: Stress from clients who call every moment on the phone and want to know what’s going on. They want always updates! So, we tell our clients not to call us, we will call them. Also, it is tough to separate emotion and anxiety from a case. We are passionate about solving the case, but we must remain strong. So, I don’t get too close to the case.

ADAM: What is your most common type of case? What type of work do you specialize in?

ALBERTO: We track down people who haven’t paid their bills. We do insurance fraud cases. We do copyright infringement cases, where people illegally make designer brands such as Prada, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana. We also do matrimonial (infidelity) cases. Our clients are mostly husbands looking to stop alimony payments or providing housing to their ex-wives. We also do child custody and divorce cases.

ADAM: What part of your career are you most proud of?

ALBERTO: When I was young, I was very timid. This job has helped me to open up, allowing my personality to grow. I also understand the negative and positive characteristics of people and the way people live their lives.

“When I was young, I was very timid. This job has helped me to open up, allowing my personality to grow.”

I am proud of the positions and appointments I have held in my private detective associations. Holding these positions has increased my love of my career, increased my knowledge and technical expertise. I really enjoy the relationships I have had with other members. It gives me self-worth.

ADAM: When you are thinking about investigating someone, what is the first thing that you should do?

ALBERTO: Speak with the client for a very long time. The client is the most important source of information. Recently, I had an interview with a client for two hours. My job was to be empathetic towards my client’s problem. His problem must be ours, but only in a small way, not too much.

ADAM: Is there anything you should not do before an investigation?

ALBERTO: Check for the crazy ones. If I find out that the person I am talking to is crazy, I tell them to go to the police instead. Two others: Watch out for clients that think the law is against them, and watch out for clients that ask you to do illegal things. I get asked to do illegal things all the time, but I could lose my license, so I refuse.

The Italian Job

ADAM: How do you get an investigator’s license in Italy?

ALBERTO: Before 2010, every city had a representative from the Minister of Interior. This representative could give out licenses based upon his discretion. Quite unfair. But after 2010, it all changed. FEDERPOL is Italy’s largest private investigator’s association (of which Alberto was president). We implemented license requirements.

First, applicants must have a three-year university degree in one of these areas: law, economics, crime, or journalism. Second, applicants must also have practiced investigations as an employee of a company for three years. Lastly, applicants must have a clean background check. No past criminal records.

ADAM: What is legal and open to investigators in Italy? And what is not open?

ALBERTO: In Italy, the data protection act is very strong. I am on the commission of FEDERPOL, the Italian Association of Private Detectives. Italy is the most regulated in all of Europe when it comes to privacy. You cannot access public information, like criminal records. Both the police and minister of the interior control what information private detectives can access.

In order to get criminal records, you must request it from an attorney. Police and the minister of the interior do integrity checks on our cases; they come to our office and note the name of each of our cases and the invoice amount. After documenting our cases, they stamp each page in our book. Very rigorous.

ADAM: Do you have a relationship with local police? Is it good or uneasy?

ALBERTO: There is very little relationship with the police. It is very tough. We are in competition, but it is a legal issue. If we are working the same case, for example, a criminal case, we are completely separated. There is no team. We must also develop leads without the help of the police. Police detectives have this benefit, but we do not. They have connections with other police, but we don’t. However, we help during counterfeiting cases. We do the dirty work, but they get the credit in the newspapers!

ADAM: In what other countries can you do investigations?

ALBERTO: Well, Adam, since you are now our United States connection, the U.S. (laughing)! We have used you to find U.S. criminal records for one of our clients here in Florence. We have done work in France, Germany, and at times a blend of many countries together. Due diligence cases take our work to many different countries.

ADAM: What books have you authored?

ALBERTO: One book is called The Private Investigations Operational Guide, which came out three years ago. My editor wants an updated version because we sold several thousand copies, so we may come out with another edition this year.

ADAM: What is the difference between actual Florence investigations and how investigations are portrayed in Hollywood?

ALBERTO: The reality is that we have a double life, a schizophrenic life. The public knows what we do in film, but they don’t know the reality. They think we do illegal detective work, rather than simply gathering public information. My clients think I bug people, but that is pretty much a fictional part of the job. People think we only work infidelity cases or matrimonial cases. The clients only have this view.

ADAM: One last question: I’m a huge movie fan. You told me that a movie was filmed here in Florence starring Tom Hanks. What movie was it and what was that like?

ALBERTO: Oh yes! We did have Inferno film here last year, and I saw the film crews in the nearby piazzas (town squares). Many movies have been filmed here. Hannibal was filmed here about ten years ago. And many more.

ADAM: I’ll be sure to watch them! Grazie Mille for your time, Alberto.

ALBERTO: Prego. Prego! Molto bene, Adam! It was wonderful for me as well.

adam alberto hugs

About the author (and the interviewee):

Alberto Paoletti is a private investigator and owner of Informark S.R.L, a private detective firm based in Florence, Italy. This interview took place at Informark’s office in Florence.

 

Good for Surveillance Purposes, Creepy for People With Suspicious Landlords.

No lens? No problem with Flat Cam. Surveillance in microform.

The reason your camera currently can’t hide in a business card or why they look awkward in the frame of those surveillance spy glasses is because of lenses.  Those lenses, no matter how small we make a camera, tend to take up a good chunk of space such that, even if the camera is hidden, it has to hide in something with at least a little bulk to it.  Or it used to, anyway.

Engineers from Rice University are taking inspiration from ancient pinhole cameras to design a new kind of camera that’s basically paper-flat and devoid of a lens.  Like a pinhole camera, it uses a hole to let in light. Unlike a pinhole camera, and to make better use of light, it has millions of holes.  A little computer science allows the camera to reconstruct one solid image from the many images let in by the numerous holes and voila, you have a functional camera that’s super thin.  So thin, in fact, you could paper an entire wall with them and have access to viewing an entire room.

A flat camera that you can basically manipulate like paper could have dozens of applications; secret body and dash cams, easily hidden security cameras virtually everywhere.  You could up the ante on the GoPro market by being able to use the cameras in far more extreme conditions, or in much crazier places.  Want to see where pizza rat is taking his meal?  Pop a paper cam on it. Or put one on a helium balloon and let it loose in a storm. Imagine the surveillance possibilities.

If you could roll out cameras like you roll out tape or paper, what could you do with them?