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6:40 AM Tue, Sept. 18th

Private investigation business is bad news for the bad guys

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<p>
Sharon Johnson, Kelli McFarland and LeRoy Johnson of Alliance Investigations show off some of the camera systems they use in while they conduct surveillance of subjects.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<p> Sharon Johnson, Kelli McFarland and LeRoy Johnson of Alliance Investigations show off some of the camera systems they use in while they conduct surveillance of subjects.

Running a private investigation agency is a complicated profession. It requires the stamina to set up surveillance in the field, a serious use of binoculars and the ability to sit for hours in front of a computer.

"My job requires me to wear many hats," said Kelli McFarland, private investigator for Alliance Investigations in Prescott.

When McFarland serves a summons, she is in effect an officer of the court. She also performs employer background checks, provides drug and alcohol tests, conducts surveillance and stakeouts, and acts as a notary for criminal and civil cases. McFarland's professional services also assist local law enforcement.

What she is not is Magnum PI, a bounty hunter or a paranormal investigator.

"People watch so much TV," McFarland said. "Nine times out of 10, a case is not fun and games. It's computer time, footwork and old-fashioned paperwork. Sometimes I get a good case, but more often than not, it's not glamorous."

She said that foreclosures can be especially tough on her and the homeowner. Serving papers is essentially giving extremely bad news to people.

"I knock on the door and move back," McFarland said. "People start yelling at me and I say, 'Don't shoot the messenger.' I'm just taking care of business. I have had people coming after me. It is sad. I try to be civil. I don't like going to their workplace to serve."

One of her clients was convinced that people were watching him.

"He had over 250 license plate numbers of people who were supposedly following him," she said. When McFarland's agents followed the client to get an idea of who these perpetrators were, it turned out that he thought any car with its lights always on was after him. "We recommended that he go see a doctor."

McFarland spends quite a bit of time handling repossessions.

"Vehicles, planes, horses, trucks, boats - you name it. But we don't pick the lock or break down doors. We usually have a key and always have a court order. Everything is legal," she said.

Then there is the indiscretion side of the business - the cheating spouses. McFarland said that the unfaithful spouses are just about evenly divided between husbands and wives. Some cases are almost funny.

"A husband was curious as to why a cable truck was parked in front of his house all day long," she said. "'We have DirecTV, not cable,' he told me."

In another instance, a carpet truck was parked in the driveway when the entire interior of the house was tiled.

"I had a 70-year-old who said he was going to a seminar and then drove straight to the Grand Canyon, got a hotel room and left the window blinds open," McFarland said. "I do have rules of procedure to follow, however, I did snap a photo."

Her first obligation is to the court and to treat everyone with respect. She does recommend, however, "don't run and hide from the process servers. We will find you."

"Ask your process server for identification," McFarland added. "We have our license with us at all times. Don't be afraid of us, we are not officers of the law."

Contact the reporter at jtwaddell@prescottaz.com