Ten Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Private Investigator | Interview with Vice Magazine

Following the publication of our chief investigator’s interview with Lea Albring from VICE Magazine Germany, the article „Ten Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Private Investigator“ has subsequently also been published on VICE UK. As is typical for VICE, the questions asked are informal, at times quite nonchalant but also amusing and interesting. Unfortunately, there have been a couple of translation mistakes and omissions in comparison to the original version which is why the article is not fully comprehensive throughout.

The Kurtz Detective Agency Germany has provided a copy of the full published interview below:


Private Detective in Germany – an occupational profile


How to make sure your partner never discovers you’re cheating on them, and other tips by PI Patrick Kurtz. If you want to call yourself a private detective in Germany, then go for it. There are 1,200 PI agencies in the country, but no recognised training facilities for private investigators. You can just declare yourself one and get going.

„So as you can imagine there’s quite a few crooks in the scene,“ says Patrick Kurtz. He manages an agency that employs 28 detectives [note: translation mistake by VICE, it’s 28 offices], who operate across Germany, and according to him, they are all professionals. He says this while puffing away at a pipe – a habit he maintains he developed long before he was a gumshoe: „I have been a passionate pipe smoker since I was 14.“

Patrick first had the idea of becoming a private investigator during his gap year. He had just completed his BA degree and was taking some time off before starting an MA, when he saw an ad in the paper for an PI internship that promised a salary of 1,700 Euros [about £1500] a month. „I realised one could make real money if they proved to be capable in this industry.“ The ad turned out to be fake, but Patrick’s enthusiasm had grown to be very real. „As a good detective I can earn 3,000 Euros [about £2600] a month and as someone who runs a detective agency, I really could not complain about my income,“ he says.

Private enquiries tend to cover four main areas: alimony payments, child custody, affairs and tracing people. Sometimes companies also approach Kurtz’s agency to find out if their employees are skiving or not, although they aren’t officially allowed to do that since the German Labour Court decided that it was illegal in 2015 [note: false information due to translation mistake by VICE].

According to Patrick, three quarters of the time the suspicions of the client are confirmed. He says that he has rarely sympathised with the people that he’s investigated.

Usually it’s Patrick’s job to obtain information, but now it’s his turn to dispense it. I met with him to ask 10 questions.


Investigators caricature; Private Detective Germany, Private Investigator Leipzig Germany
How do modern detectives work? Although magnifying glasses are still in use when securing evidence and at least Patrick Kurtz is a pipe smoker, indeed, our most important tools are high-resolution cameras nonetheless.

VICE: „Isn’t what you do technically just stalking?“


Patrick Kurtz: „There are some similarities, in the sense that both a detective and a stalker are watching people in their private sphere. But a stalker wants to make contact, while a detective is there to observe and maintain boundaries. If I witness something very intimate, that’s only because that act takes place outside somebody’s home. If someone is cheating on their wife in a car parked in a layby, then it’s my job to observe it. Stalkers spy because they’re obsessed, private detectives spy because we’re hired to do so.

There was this one time, when my agency was actually hired by someone’s stalker. This client had fabricated an infidelity scenario to convince us to tail their victim. Fortunately, as soon as we started looking into the case, we figured out the client was a stalker, and we were able to come clean to the victim.“


What’s the raunchiest thing you have witnessed?


„I’m hardly working on a porn set – we always keep our distance and there are lines we don’t cross. Looking back, I think one of the most risqué scenes I’ve had to observe from a distance, was part of this one case in Hannover – an employer suspected that one of his salespeople wasn’t using his work hours to knock on potential client doors. We observed him for five days and from the first day, we realised that he would spend some hours driving around aimlessly, then work for a few hours and then would go home early. He would park his car a short distance away from his garage, so people wouldn’t notice he was home.

But on the last day of our investigation, after he left home in the morning, he picked up a young man and the two of them drove to a secluded area. It was pretty clear they were having sex in there for a couple of hours [note: two] – the windows were all steamed up, the car was rocking and you could hear everything. The sex part wasn’t anyone’s business of course – he was fired because he was getting paid, while not doing any work. But you asked about a salacious anecdote, so there you go.“


Have you ever fallen in love with someone you were investigating?


„No, and I wouldn’t let that happen. It did happen to a couple of colleagues however. They got involved with people they met through work but they were both clients, not those being investigated. One affair started after an investigation into infidelity – it was proven that the client’s partner was cheating on them, and then the client and my colleague dated for a while. It didn’t last though.

However, the second pair are still together. A woman who worked for a city council claimed she had been threatened by a co-worker a few times, and grew suspicions that the local government had bugged her phone. She hired a colleague to look into that and it turned out her suspicions were false: No one was monitoring her conversations. Still, somehow she and the detective who worked on her case got in a relationship, and they’ve been a couple ever since.“


What’s the most common reason clients approach you?


„We get a lot of female clients who suspect that their husband is cheating on them with another man. Roughly, out of 100 investigations into suspicions of infidelity, we’ll find maybe two men who are hiding their sexuality from their wives. I’ve never discovered a secret lesbian relationship, though.

I think men find it more difficult to come to terms with their sexual orientation because of obvious social pressures. I’ve never come across the cliché case of a man living a double life, having two families. But we did once investigate a guy who turned out to be cheating on his wife with several women at the same time. And he was renting apartments for all of them.“


What do you do all day? Do you just sit in your car, waiting for something to happen – like in the movies?


„Obviously, each case is different but yeah, it can get boring when you’re following someone to see if they’re cheating on their partners. That’s like it is in the movies – you’re just sat in a car, waiting outside someone’s house. It’s surprisingly exhausting to watch a driveway for hours on end.

When I get tired I put on some hard rock to stay awake, like Metallica or Soundgarden. I also just listen to audiobooks to kill the time – like Edgar Allan Poe and, as basic as that makes me sound, Sherlock Holmes. About 70 percent of observation is waiting, 30 percent is action. And if you’re following someone around, you really need to focus and concentrate.“


How do you manage to follow someone without them noticing?


„My investigators and I have a couple of textbook tricks that help us conceal our profession. When neighbours notice us, we’ll always have a story ready – or a „legend“, as we like to call it. So, for example, I’ll often say that my wife has just thrown me out of the house. For that reason, I always have a thermos and blanket in my car and keep my hair messy – those props help sell the story usually.

So far we have only been found out once, because we hadn’t taken into account the difference in location. We were investigating someone living in a rural area, where everyone knew everyone. We had been hired to find out whether a farm worker was actually doing his job. A colleague and I parked our cars at about 700 metres from the property, but a passing farmer noticed us and told the subject of our investigation about it. He then turned up at our car and said we should stop spying on him and leave. It all turned out alright in the end, we got what we needed. The most important thing is to make sure to be ready to change our strategy swiftly, if we think a subject is on to us.“


Do you ever have to break the law in order to do your job?


„The problem is that we often operate in a legal grey area. The laws we deal with are often unclear or there are simply no laws regarding our profession in Germany. What is allowed and what’s not can only become clear after a specific case going through a judicial panel.

For example, GPS trackers are currently illegal in Germany [note: false translation; Patrick Kurtz said that they are considered illegal by many], but paying for information isn’t. But again, it’s a grey area. Is it really okay to pay a waiter to tell you if Person X was eating with Person Y between times A and B? At my agency, we don’t employ those kinds of techniques just to be on the moral and legal side of things, but we do make up stories to get information. For instance, we’ll claim that our investigators are family members or business partners of the people we’re investigating. It’s certainly a lie, but it’s not a criminal offence.“


Some people think private detectives are just failed cops. Is that true?


„I do employ plenty of ex-coppers as investigators. A small group of those people [note: ex-coppers in the business], were dishonourably discharged from the police. A lot are on police pensions and want to supplement their income. Others saw no chance for a promotion, or fell out with their superior officers – things like that. But I believe all the people I manage are more than capable at their jobs.

So far, I’ve only hired the wrong person once. He was a Police Chief Inspector, who took over an investigation for my detective agency. I knew the client personally [note: false translation; Patrick Kurtz did not know the client personally but was on very good terms with her during and after the investigation]. Because of the personal relationship, it didn’t take long for us to realise that something wasn’t right. Eventually, it came out that the investigator I had put on the case had faked his observation logs. He was meant to infiltrate a company to investigate bullying. But it turned out that he had worked for that company only one day for four hours. He then called in sick. On his account and in his report, he claimed he had worked at that company for five days, eight hours each day. I reported him for fraud and sued for damages.“


If I wanted to cheat on my partner, what’s the best way to do it without being found out?


„I’d say to avoid putting anything in writing – don’t text, email or chat online. Only deal with each other face-to-face – and never in public. If your partner suddenly turns off their mobile phone for a while [note: false translation; if your partner hides the mobile], that could be an indication that they could be cheating. And if you don’t want to be found out, make sure that you don’t change your behaviour in any obvious way. Don’t suddenly start going to the gym or the hairdresser more often than normally, for example. Those are clues that’ll give you away [note: false translation; that are frequently described by our clients].“


And if I wanted to make myself disappear, what’s the best way to go about it?


„If you’re an EU citizen, stay in Europe to avoid leaving any traces at borders. Don’t ever take a plane or a train, because that normally means your journey will be registered – plus there are cameras everywhere at train stations and airports.

The most important thing is to be prepared to leave your old life behind. Many people who disappear successfully at first, are later found because they couldn’t let go of some of the comforts of their old life. They’ll keep using old credit cards for instance or will look for a flat using their old name. Few people are willing to go all the way and get a new identity and get fake documents made. That’s why we fail at only 15 percent of the missing person cases we take on – and when that happens it’s usually because the budget we have at our disposal doesn’t allow us to continue our search.“


Kurtz Detective Agency Leipzig, Germany

Beuchaer Straße 10

04318 Leipzig

Tel.: +49 (0)341 6970 4082

Mobile: +49 (0)163 8033 967

E-Mail: kontakt@kurtz-detektei-leipzig.de

Web: https://www.kurtz-detektei-leipzig.de/kurtz-detective-agency-leipzig-germany/

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Berlin: The City Of Spies Never Dies | Patrick Kurtz’s Interview with the American Radio Station NPR


Recently, Patrick Kurtz, CEO of our Detective Agency in Berlin, Germany, gave an interview to Tony Andrews from Radio NPR. It was our chief investigator’s first ever English interview. The two of them discussed private investigations in Berlin and in Germany in general and talked about a very special case containing a missing person and highly specialised man-trailing dogs. The following extract is taken from the original radio broadcast:


Preconditions for Private Investigations in Germany


Tony Andrews: „Berlin has a long history of being at the epicenter of espionage. And not only during the Cold War: Just this year construction on the new BND (Bundesnachrichten Dienst) spy headquarters was completed in the city. But what is less well-known is that Berlin also has the highest number of private detectives of any German city.“

Patrick Kurtz: „I’ve always been a great fan of Sherlock Holmes, cliché I know.“

Tony Andrews: „That’s private investigator Patrick Kurtz. Because he doesn’t have a license to kill, when a potential client approaches him, he has to first figure out whether the person has a right to the information they’re seeking.“

Patrick Kurtz: „Is there a legal interest or at least a legitimate interest for the investigation?“

Tony Andrews: „Someone has a legal interest if money is involved: Debtors, employees, that kind of thing. A legitimate interest refers to family or people who live together. Wanting information about a stranger is technically called:“

Patrick Kurtz: „Some kind of stalking.“


Detective Agency Germany, Private Investigator Germany, Investigations Berlin
Being by far the biggest city in Germany, Berlin accordingly contains the highest number of private investigators, but the Kurtz Detective Agency is among the few of them which offer their services in English. 

Case Example: Missing Person from Baden-Württemberg


Tony Andrews: „Private investigations tend to be about unfaithfulness, alimony, and – sometimes – missing persons. Patrick tells me about this one case he can’t forget. A couple from Baden-Württemberg called him one day because their autistic son had disappeared.“

Patrick Kurtz: „They told me that they are missing their son. He’s been missing for I think it was four days.“

Tony Andrews: „The boy left a letter in which he explained that he was running away because he couldn’t cope with school.“

Patrick Kurtz: „In that letter he also told his family that he is going to kill himself.

Tony Andrews: „Patrick started the search at the boy’s last known location.“

Patrick Kurtz: „He used a credit card and got money from cash machines so we knew he must have been in Düsseldorf.“


Chasing the Trace: Man-trailing dogs in Germany


Tony Andrews: „Then he brought in some dogs. Some man-trailing dogs to sniff some of the missing boy’s clothes to find the trail.“

Patrick Kurtz: „They immediately know the trace no matter how many other smells you have around.“

Tony Andrews: „That blew my mind. These dogs can identify your smell at a public place, among hundreds, even thousands of other smells.“

Patrick Kurtz: „After days, weeks, and even after months.“


A Study in Blood


Tony Andrews: „Anyway, so they followed the trail to a nearby hotel.“

Patrick Kurtz: „We explained the situation to them [the hotel employees] and they were helping us.“

Tony Andrews: „The dogs led them up to one of the rooms.“

Patrick Kurtz: „Then we knocked at the door. No-one answered.“

Tony Andrews: „Hotel staff used the master key to open the door and then they walked in.“

Patrick Kurtz: „We saw the son that we were looking for and he was lying head down on the bed with blood all over.“

Tony Andrews: „He didn’t react.“

Patrick Kurtz: „But then we tested to see if he’s still alive and he was alive, gladly. We saw that he had tried to kill himself by cutting himself. After some time we got him to some kind of consciousness.“


The satisfying feeling of solving a case


Tony Andrews: „The team got to him on time. I asked Patrick how that made him feel. He just said:“

Patrick Kurtz: „It’s a good feeling to save a life of course.“

Tony Andrews: „What he may have meant to say was:“

„Elementary, my dear Watson.“


Are you looking for a Private Investigator in Germany?


Should you as a private person or as an accountable employee be in need of private or commercial investigations in Germany, Kurtz Investigations Berlin will gladly help you with their widespread network of qualified investigators all over the country: +49 30 5557 8641-0 or kontakt@kurtz-detektei-berlin.de.


Kurtz Investigations Berlin, Germany

Rykestraße 26

D-10405 Berlin

Tel.: 030 555 786 41-0

Fax: 030 555 786 41-9

E-Mail: kontakt@kurtz-detektei-berlin.de

Web: http://www.kurtz-detektei-berlin.de

 

http://www.kurtz-detektei-berlin.de/2016/08/27/berlin-the-city-of-spies-never-dies-patrick-kurtz-s-interview-with-the-american-radio-station-npr/

http://www.nprberlin.de/post/life-berlin-city-spies-never-dies#stream/0