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The spying game

#1 User is offline   hukildaspida 

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 03:33 PM

The spying game
Last updated 05:00 24/11/2013


Debra Young is new to the independent snooping game. She has been a private investigator based in the Hutt for only a year, but before that she worked for the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, for ACC as an investigator and in a non-sworn job for New Zealand Police. She calls herself Chameleon Investigations and is one of a sprinkling of women in a nationwide tally of more than 4000 private investigators.

"I'm pretty up in surveillance experience," she says. And it's not, she adds, all glamour.

By nature,the 47-year-old, is a stand-out sort of woman and loves to dress in fashionable brights. She has to keep that for days off. Private investigators are grey people, so they blend into the background.

It's not unknown for her to sally out with a dull wig over her shiny blonde hair, and maybe a cap or beanie over that, "all that sort of stuff you see on television". Dull is the PI uniform and more often than not, dull is the job.

"It's not as exciting as people think. There's a lot of sitting around and turning up and waiting. It's 90 per cent boredom and 10 per cent adrenaline."

She loves it, especially the surveillance part which, she says, is not to be confused with following. Following a suspected errant husband in a car would quickly find her sprung. She needs to be clever and careful, take a cunning route, drive straight on when he turns a corner.

Surveillance often involves hours of covert waiting deep into the night. Oddly enough, the most bizarre sights she has seen from her dark possie have been quite unconnected to the job in hand - like people in nearby windows blithely getting undressed.

"You think ‘please don't', and they're never gorgeous people. Then you get people going through other people's rubbish bins in the middle of the night. They could be street dwellers, they could be neighbours. I wouldn't have a clue."

Night work has its complexities. It can sometimes be fruitless and doesn't let up for a visit back home to the loo.

"You can sit for hours and hours and hours and nothing happens and you can't be rushing off to the toilet. There's a British product called Shewee that allows females to pee more easily. You can pee standing up without any problems. It's a cool little thing. And you have to have all your food with you for the day. You're on your own with no backup."

Hours in the dark are usually to do with custodial or, more often, relationship cases - "surveilling him to see what his movements are and getting video evidence".

"Where there's smoke there's always fire, big time. When someone gets to the point of have a PI, it's not cheap, $80 to $100 an hour and the person could be working 10 hours."

Her clients, and they're almost invariably women, know in their hearts their partner is cheating, "but not with hard evidence".

"I think at the end of the day they want to make an informed decision about what to do next for their emotional and financial health. Given the information, they could go forward. It is about facts."

Relaying the facts always ends with a weeping woman: "Always, no two ways about it. I always think ‘how would I feel'."
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Matrimonial cases amount to about one third of her surveillance work. Most of the rest is around employment law and employees "going home when they should be working, using company vehicles when they shouldn't, drugs might be involved".

Drugs are involved in another area of her business, checking properties for methamphetamine, often in Auckland.

"No-one should buy a property without having it meth-tested. It's so cheap, you're crazy if you don't."

It costs, she says, $99. "It's a serious issue. The personal health risks are massive. Just because a house is rented for $2000 a week doesn't mean it's not used for making meth."

She goes into a home, feet and hands protected, and take swabs from a number of areas for analysis. Has she ever found meth contamination? "Yes, yes, yes. Thirty percent of tests come back positive. There's been quite high meth manufacture in New Zealand for 15 years. Unfortunately, some people realise the property was used and allowed the use because they can't pay for [their own] meth use . . . nice couple, no house issues, and they have a meth problem. You can't tell by looking at a property."

Young's job means she can be in one city one morning, another the next and Wellington, where she has lived for five years, the day after that.

"It's not a job for people who like routine. There's no routine. That's what I love, the lack of routine. I don't know what I'll be doing when in Auckland, Nelson or Wellington. I like the fact I'm responsible for my own destiny, for self-development."

- The Dominion Post

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