Being a private detective is more than just being in the bushes

The recorder on his phone travels through the entire conversation. Private detective Paul Blok of Het Gooisch Recherchebureau prefers to record all conversations, he says. To prevent incorrect information from appearing in its reports.

In fact, people like Blok prefer not to be called a private detective. Private investigator is the official term. Private detective is something from the movies. It evokes an image of men hiding in the collar of their long raincoat hiding in bushes to observe their targets.

He has indeed done the latter, Blok says. “I was looking for someone in a completely empty industrial area. When I park my car there, it immediately stands out. You have to blend into the environment. On the other side of a ditch stood groves and tall grass. I put a camping mat there and I had perfect visibility between the blades, while the snails and spiders descended on me. ”

There is often a too negative image of the industry, thinks Tom Heijm of Recherchebureau Heijm. Of course, you have rotten apples among them, which ignore all rules of conduct.

But the former police detective attaches great importance to the image of professionally working investigators who pick up the work that the police leave behind. “We are not police, I think that is important to emphasize. But you can imagine that the police do not have time for all matters. For example, burglaries, stalking, or fraud and scams.

Private individuals and companies can come to us for that and they are often very grateful for that. ”

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Obligation to perform

It happened to the police that an investigation got stuck and you thought: move on to the next case, Heijm says. “Because someone pays us, it’s different for us. We do not have a result obligation, but we do have a best efforts obligation. We put everything on everything. Suppose a company hires us because there are indications that an employee has wrongly reported sick. Then my experience is: if there is, we will find it. “

How far can a private investigator go for this? Exactly the same as any ordinary citizen, says Blok and Heijm.

For example, for investigations into matters such as company theft, traffic accidents, fraud, or an ex-partner who would lie about the alimony, they can search someone’s social media accounts. They can also ask someone questions about what they have seen, or follow someone on public roads.

To set limits, the industry has drawn up a code of conduct. It states, for example, that a means that a researcher uses must be proportional. That means that you will not systematically observe someone if he is suspected of taking a packet of paper from his boss, says Blok. “I’m not shooting a mosquito with a cannon.”

But who determines whether something is proportional? The private investigator does this himself. The industry is mainly based on self-regulation. Nevertheless, the two researchers contradict the image that there is little independent supervision of what they do.

Heijm: “A judge ultimately decides whether my investigation report can serve as evidence and therefore whether my investigation is correct.”

Blok: “Isn’t someone constantly looking over your shoulder to see if you are paying for this cup of coffee? This is also how it works at detective agencies. I am not doing anything wrong because then I can lose my permit and therefore my income. “

Mysterious man waiting in the fog


Heijm, who has been a researcher for about 20 years, mainly sees the share of private customers increasing. For example, a family member is missing, they suspect their ex-partner lying about alimony, or their current partner of cheating.

These are examples that raise the question where private investigation ends and merges into private affairs? Affair cases are very sensitive, says Blok. He always says to consider whether an investigation is justified. According to Heijm, his work is primarily about finding the truth.

And the rules of conduct of the private investigator stipulate that the research target must always be informed in the end. Blok: “Clients are sometimes shocked.”

The private detective is on the rise in the Netherlands. Many private investigators tackle cases for which the police have no time, says the trade association.