As the countdown continues toward the October 1 release of Beta and the first adventure of private investigator/martial artist Mallory Petersen, I thought I’d take an opportunity to show you a small part of the world of an actual private investigator.

I met Amy Drescher at the Killer Nashville writers’ conference in 2010. She sat on a panel discussing surveillance techniques and equipment. Afterward, I had an opportunity to speak with her one on one and she agreed to do an interview to help promote my upcoming book.

Amy Drescher is a licensed private investigator and owns Rosetta Stone Investigations, a licensed PI company based in Williamson County, Tennessee. Ms. Drescher specializes in domestic and civil matters and has handled hundreds of cases since she was licensed in 2002 by the Tennessee Private Investigation and Polygraph Commission. She is a member of the Tennessee Association of Professional Investigators and holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Media & Broadcasting.

Her career as a female private investigator was the subject of a Nashville television news feature report (WKRN/ABC News, “Nashville P.I. on a Mission to Catch Cheatin’ Hearts”) and most recently she was a speaker for the Nashville Bar Association Family Law Institute/CLE (“Using a Private Investigator to Prepare Your Case”, October 2010).

Prior to becoming a licensed PI, Ms. Drescher spent more than a decade as an investigative television news reporter and TV anchor in Illinois where she earned numerous state and national awards for investigative reporting.
She and her husband, Nashville lawyer, Jay Drescher have three children and reside in Franklin, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. Drescher is 46 years old and enjoys photography, working out at the local gym, and she is an enthusiast of Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes as evidenced by her collection of books and memorabilia.

1. What was the lure of the profession for you? How did you make the decision to become a private investigator? How long have you been in this profession?

My intrigue began when I was in elementary school. My dad had a police scanner and I specifically recall memorizing the “10-CODE” (that’s 10-1 through 10-99!) so that I could decipher the “coded language” between the 911 Dispatcher and emergency personnel (police, fire, coroner, etc). Since my youth, electronics and gadgets have interested me. So much so, that in the sixth grade, I pleaded for a CB radio home unit, “a base station”. It was a treasured Christmas gift and my outlet to talk “in code”. Today, 35 years later, it resides in my office.

I gave some consideration to attend a police academy, but ultimately, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Broadcasting. During college I was a DJ at a local Top Hits radio station until my first real job as television news reporter and anchor in Illinois. Ironically, the 10-CODE served me well in the newsroom. Many times, I scooped the competition or at least, I was the first reporter at the scene because I was able to easily decipher the police scanner. Coded language between the 911 dispatcher and emergency personnel was, after all, old hat to me. A decade or so later, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee and set out to become a private investigator. I became licensed in 2003 and formed a licensed PI agency. I specialize in Civil and Domestic matters. The majority of my clients are referrals and/or family law attorneys.

2. What training did you undergo to become a PI? College courses? Weapons? Self defense?

My best training was my previous experience as a news reporter. There are very strong parallels between a news reporter and private investigator. Skills such as writing a detailed and objective report, operating and troubleshooting video equipment, interviewing, understanding privacy laws and, of course, digging up dirt like there’s no tomorrow!

Each state has its own rules, guidelines, and licensing requirements. A handful of states have no requirements. No state mandates weapons training. Check the rules in the state where your fictional PI lives and works. For example, in Tennessee, a licensed private investigator MUST work for licensed PI company.

As I instruct each “PI Wanna-Be” who calls me wanting a job—Your first case assignment is to figure out how to become a PI! Hint: Ignore all online classes/seminars. Go straight to your State Government website.

I am licensed by the State of Tennessee Private Investigation and Polygraph Commission.
I have an individual PI license and a company PI license. Here is general summary of what it takes to be a PI in Tennessee. Minimum 21 years old, clear an FBI background check, and a written exam. Licensing for a PI company (which you must work for) is more difficult.

License renewal and continued education (12 hours) is also required every two years. All of the above comes with a price tag for application fees, fingerprinting fees, testing fees, license fees, and renewal fees. Double the costs for owning an agency.

3. What types of cases do you prefer to investigate and how did you decide? For instance missing persons or background checks versus finding evidence of cheating spouses?

I specialize in civil (i.e. non-criminal) and domestic cases (family law) cases such as divorce, child custody issues and infidelity (and, lots of it, sorry to report). My niche seemed to unfold naturally and rapidly, in part, due to my husband being a divorce lawyer. Once my foot was in the door, my passion for the job and constant professionalism has kept the door wide open.

I can’t say that I prefer a certain type of case over another. I find missing people and those who don’t want to be found. I run background checks as frequently as I run the dishwasher. I spend most weekends with liars and cheaters. At the end of the day, it’s always about finding the truth.

4. Do you have any other people on your staff? Do they all wear different hats?

The investigators who work for me have varied backgrounds, personalities and lifestyles.

Jason, 34, single, father, former United States Marine, avid hunter/fisherman, known to conduct surveillance from tree-tops.

Lisa, 48, married, petite brunette, a Southern lady, church youth group leader, and will drop everything when called upon for an urgent surveillance.

Vince, 35, single, former police officer, works in Fraud Protection, and thinks like a cop-which is a good thing!

Renee, 49, single, tall blonde, sincere and sweet yet brazen and very competent, my first choice because of her skill-level.

5. Do you have a certain region in which you work? For instance if someone from Iowa, for some reason requested your services, would you be willing to travel?

The majority of my work is in Nashville and the surrounding counties. A few times a year, a job that originates locally will take us to another state. Such was the case recently when we flew to San Diego to watch a suspected cheating spouse while she attended a week- long conference at an upscale hotel. More frequently, a client from out-of-state will hire me to do a job here.

6. Describe some of the surveillance equipment you use?

The one piece of equipment that I could not live without is a top-of-the-line digital Sony video camera with Sony night-shot and manual adjustments to shoot in the dark. I have a stockpile of tech gadgets such as body-worn cameras, a key-fob camera, a covert camera hidden in a rock and of course, a pair of high-end binoculars.

7. What types of weapons do you carry, if any?

I do not carry a weapon. As PI Jim Rockford once reasoned, “I don’t carry a gun because I don’t want to shoot anybody”.

Stealth and discretion is the backbone of remaining anonymous and avoiding confrontation. My identity might be revealed during court proceedings, for example, but it is not something that concerns me enough to carry a weapon.

By the way, that is the number one question that men ask me.

Stop by tomorrow for Part 2.

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