Locating The Skip On The Run

From time to time as a private investigator, I am confronted by the task of locating a person who has essentially pulled up and left their prior known location. Although, I do not consider myself a skip tracer, I have the need for this type of investigation more often than I like. I separate this type of case into two differing categories. This first category is a person who’s location is simply unknown to the client. The second category is a person who has truly undertaken the endeavor of trying to hide their location. This situation is someone who’s location is truly unknown due to their intentional act of hiding their location. The first category is typically resolved through a simple database search. This type of investigation, or more accurately termed a search, is not what I consider a true skip trace. I handle this from of situation routinely in the course of most investigations. The second category is very much a different endeavor.
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From time to time as a private investigator, I am confronted by the task of locating a person who has essentially pulled up and left their prior known location. Although, I do not consider myself a skip tracer, I have the need for this type of investigation more often than I like. I separate this type of case into two differing categories. This first category is a person who’s location is simply unknown to the client. The second category is a person who has truly undertaken the endeavor of trying to hide their location. This situation is someone who’s location is truly unknown due to their intentional act of hiding their location. The first category is typically resolved through a simple database search. This type of investigation, or more accurately termed a search, is not what I consider a true skip trace. I handle this from of situation routinely in the course of most investigations. The second category is very much a different endeavor.

Trying to find an individual who is evading someone is a complex investigation. Typically, this type of case arise out of child support disputes, collection efforts, and the more robust scenario of criminal activity. The complexity of each occurrence will vary, with the evading of criminal prosecution as the most complex. What makes this form of investigation more complex than simply completing a database search? Individuals on the run do not generate documentation that is normally found in databases. For example, vehicle registration, utility bills, and so on. Yes, the individual may have records in a database, such as a vehicle registration, but the address on the registration will only be a prior address. In turn, our data sources become completely useless. This form of investigation can become very tuff in a very short time period.

How can we approach this type of issue? Fortunately, investigators have been dealing with this very issue for a very long time. The downside is you may completely fail. I truly believe given the required resources and time, you can locate anyone. However, the main resource is having a client who is willing and able to pay for the considerable amount of time needed in some cases. Locating an individual who is evading an investigator, or more directly the investigator’s client, boils down to one simple resource. The resource of human assets who hold some level of knowledge about the target’s habits, work, friends, associates, and available resources.

The goal is to gain an understanding about the target from the ground up. Where has the target lived prior? How has the target made their living prior? Who were they friends with? Who is their family? Where are these people located currently? What resources does the target have available? Money? A boat? A car? Most importantly, what is motivating the target? Some of this information is available in a database, mostly variables from the past. However, the remaining information is gained through interviewing people. The information from a database is a starting point. Most databases have a locate report available, which is a list of people and their contact information. Typically, these people are neighbors of the target’s prior address or most recent address available in a database. I normally start by calling people and than at some point go into the field. This changeover normally occurs when I need to confirm possible locations. I maintain the working theory that people in close proximity to the target in the present, for example who they are living with, are more likely to cover for the target.

There are a couple critical points to consider when you are trying to locate someone on the run. One, an individual is always limited by their available resources. There are exceptions to this rule, but for the normal circumstance this will hold true. If they start off limited on funds and no access to credit, they will not get far without the aid of a family member or friend. However, this aid normally comes in the form of the target living with the family member or friend. If they have funds, the funds will not last forever, unless they are wealthy. The average person can make it about a week to two weeks on money in their bank account. You throw credit in and they can double the time. I gauge most resources lasting about a month in most cases. This one month is the typical breaking point for the target. They will either acquire aid from another person, find a way to acquire more resources on their own, or hit rockbottom. This is where the target’s prior history becomes very important. When the target’s resources are exhausted they will have an absolute need to acquire more resources. They will need a place to live and food to eat. These two resources do not appear out of thin air. The target will acquire these resources through three possible ways. One, they will receive aid from a friend, family member, or a social service agency. Two, they will find some form of employment. And, third, they will turn to criminal activity. They key is reflecting on the target’s prior history. People will utilize their knowledge from prior experience. For example, if they know how to make money off the street, then this will be the first option they exhaust. An investigator has to apply a fair amount of critical thinking to this aspect of the investigation. There is no single approach to all investigations of this form, rather, an investigator has to exploit known information on the target.

In most cases, time is the investigators best tool. Typically, a target overtime will reestablish their self. This results in new public records. Unfortunately, most investigators are unable to play the waiting game due to the client’s immediate needs. On the other hand, in some cases, the target may never truly reestablish their self and remain on the fringe of society. Individuals like this can be extremely difficult to find. If your target hits rockbottom and turns to living on the street, you will most likely not find the individual if you cannot narrow their geographical area down to a city. The true homeless, individuals who are homeless by choice for years, are the most difficult to locate. As hard as it is to fathom, some people do live on the street by choice. If your target makes this choice, you are in for a very difficult time in locating the person. I know of at least one individual who has lived on the street for years and travels round trip from Ohio to California once a year. From my understanding, he is able to make this journey by hiding on train cars. Imagine trying to locate this individual at any given time. I know for sure I can find him, but only once a year. He comes through the town where my office is located. I see him in the city building every winter getting warm for just a couple of weeks then disappears. There is no textbook approach to locating someone on the run. The key is exploiting the information you do have and try to predict the target’s actions.



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