Being a private investigator can be a very rewarding profession that always offers interesting travels and new experiences but there are also some medical dangers and risks that are built into the occupation.
Unfortunately, there have been some reported cases of PIs being attacked or even murdered. The basic philosophy of the job can breed some contention and possibly elicit retaliation. Working late into the night, often alone, can put an agent in a vulnerable position. However, we are fortunate in that to date none of our PIs have been attacked (they have been threatened though) and certainly not murdered.
No, health concerns, are more mundane but still very serious.
On the Road
Imagine an airplane crashing every week with all those on board dying. Mustapha Benmaamar, a transport specialist with the World Bank in Jakarta was talking about road accidents here in Indonesia when he summed it up saying: “We’re talking about the equivalent of a jumbo jet crash every week…….when a jumbo jet crashes, it’s big news, but here (in Indonesia), these people die in silence.”
There are health issues that private investigators are more susceptible to perhaps than people in other professions and I cover these below. For me though, as a Director of Investigations managing a number of investigators, it is road safety that worries me most of all.
Actually, the number of deaths on Indonesian roads is more like two jumbo jet crashes a week. Each day an average of 120 people die in road accidents.
One of the first things a visitor notices about traffic in Indonesia (and I am sure other countries in Asia) is the huge amount of small motorcycles. They are like flies weaving in and out of everywhere, There are now more than 60 million of these flies on Indonesia’s roads and 8 million cars.
In Jakarta millions of motorcycles dart in and out and around the semi-permanent gridlock of cars and trucks and buses. If the traffic jam is too dense they will drive up onto pavements or zoom insanely down one-way streets in the wrong direction. Stop signs, red lights and as far as I can tell any road laws are not to be bothered with. Pedestrians get no respect.
Indonesia, and Jakarta, is prone to sudden heavy rain. When this happens motorcyclists often form large groups underneath overpasses, blocking traffic on main roads until the rain passes.
With the massive surge of traffic in Indonesia has come an increase in the number of road deaths:
- 2002 – just over 8,000 a year
- 2007 – more than 16,500 a year
- 2010 – about 35,000 a year
Sixty percent of deaths were riders of two- or three-wheel vehicles. Pedestrian deaths made up 21 percent of the total road fatalities in Indonesia.
Official figures do not record the number of pedestrian deaths linked to motorcycles, but it is safe to assume the number is significant.
I suppose getting from A to B carries the same dangers for everyone in Indonesia, but for our agents the risks are perhaps exaggerated given the that the work often needs large amounts of time on mobile surveillance.
We do try to minimise the risk by ensuring all agents are trained on motorcycle riding. We also try, where possible, to carry out mobile surveillance in cars. If we do have motorcycle surveillance all agents are issued with high quality helmets.
Also we have a policy where agent safety is a key priority. An agent should never risk their health or life to continue surveillance. They just back off.
Once I remember tailing a woman (young) and it was 01:00 in the morning. She had left work on her motorcycle and started to gather pace, as she approached 90km/hour I let go. It really is not worth it.
General Medical Conditions
The more realistic risks relate to the varying conditions that a private investigator has to encounter in the search for evidence. A Private Investigator cannot normally get up and leave the job to go to bathroom or eat dinner if they are on a stakeout. Leave for five minutes and that could be the five minutes where something critical happens.
Agents also spend a lot of time in traffic – pollution and of course the traffic jams. Much time can also be spent in a stationery car. Imagine sitting in a hot car for hours observing the target to complete surveillance.
Additionally, the stakeout can pose risks for heat exhaustion in Indonesia (and I guess hypothermia in other parts of the world). In order to be quiet and discreet the PI may place themselves in situations that are uncomfortable or even unhealthy over time.
Some of the possible health risks I must consider when I make a timetable for the various agents include:
- Stress (from the traffic)
- Urinary tract illnesses (from not going to the toilet when needed)
- Digestive illnesses
Agents can also suffer from abnormal blood sugar levels if they are not able to eat on the job. In this profession you don’t get traditional, scheduled breaks.
While it is important to complete the task and fully investigate the scene, an agent’s health is a critical quality to consider in planning agents for future cases. So for example if an agent has recently spent a week or so on a very static stakeout in a car, we will try and switch it around with the next case having more outside walking – it is impossible to predict what will be needed for each case but often we can have a good idea after discussions with a client.
Indonesia Private Investigation Agency (IPIA) and our sister agency Bali Eye Private Investigation Agency (BEPIA) are fully registered Private Investigation Agencies offering private detective and private investigator services to the Private and Business sectors throughout Indonesia and South East Asia.