The role of private investigators and commercial agents in law enforcement


The private security industry in Australia is at least double the size of public police services, and while there has been some research on security guards and crowd controllers, very little is known about “inquiry agents” or private investigators.

The authors estimate that there are about 25,000 private investigators in Australia, and this study, based on 40 in-depth interviews in Queensland and New South Wales, is a first attempt to assess what it is they do, how effective they are, the legal and ethical issues facing private agents, and how their efforts can be maximised by their clients, most notably agencies affected by fraud.

While more work needs to be undertaken with a larger random sample to develop an ongoing research base, this paper provides an important description of the activities of those interviewed, and the finding from this sample that for every dollar spent on an investigation, between $3 and $6 are saved in uncovering fraud.

This paper is taken from the report of research undertaken with the assistance of a grant from the Criminology Research Council.