FTC: Consumer Privacy Comments Concerning Joseph T. Grills, Jr.--P974806
JOSEPH T. GRILLS, JR.
CALIFORNIA LICENSE NO. PI-10276
June 18, 1997
Office of the Secretary,
RE:Support of Self Regulation by the Private Investigation industry.
Dear Mr. Clark,
In response to the Commissions request for additional comments following the June 10, 1997 hearing on the matter of privacy and the possibility of the industry regulating itself I submitt the following.
I am a licensed investigator, duly licensed by the State of California. The reason that the word licensed is in bold is that most of the problems we in the industry have are caused by un-licensed investigators. A local San Diego TV station recently did a hit piece on private investigators and the investigator they used as a source is to the best of my knowledge not licensed. The media has done this on several occasions and in almost all cases, the information obtained has been obtained in violation of current law. When I brought this to attention of the current US Attorney and suggested they investigate a possible violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, he turned white and refused to proceed against a television station.
When the State of California in a rushed decision decided to close all D.M.V. address information, they found that the court system was hurt very badly. Addresses could not he obtained to serve subpoenas. They had to change the law to make exceptions for things like this.
As an investigator working in the private sector I regularly use both public and private records to service my clients. The use of credit headers, real estate records, court records and other records are a very important source of information in my business. They are used to locate persons for service of process, to do background checks on potential employees, and for many other legitimate reasons.
A few examples of what I mean: If you run a credit header on a potential employee you can obtain addresses for the last seven years. In some cases this will reveal addresses that the subject has not listed on the application form to hide a crime committed in another state or county. This could result in a convicted rapist being hired to work the night shift with a female employee. The potential for damage to the female and the company are obvious. By the way this did happen before we had credit headers and the company paid a large sum to the employee who was injured.
In another case an ex-wife wanted to locate her former husband to collect unpaid child support. This person had very little money but by using credit header checks the man was located for about $30.00.
As a retired federal agent (DEA) I am well aware how important keeping information secure is. Myself, the investigators and data-base information companies work with all require not only a need- to-know but a right-to-know before releasing information. I have stopped doing credit checks because of all the state and federal regulations but when I did do them the client only got the information they really needed not the whole report.
I am certain that if given the chance the licensed private investigation industry can police itself. I am not saying that we are perfect but controls that close these information sources will have a major effect on commerce in general not just the private investigation industry. It will also make the obtaining of information much more expensive for the average citizen.
Restrictive regulations would prevent us from bringing families together, locating defendants for service/arrest, stopping fraud, etc. Yes, we do locate people with outstanding warrants then tell law enforcement where they are so that they can arrest them. Most of us have a good working relationship with law enforcement and attempt to assist them when we can. In most jurisdictions they are spread very thin and over worked.
I ask that the Commission give us a chance to prove ourselves. Let us regulate the information we obtain and how it is used. If you do decide that some regulations are necessary please exempt licensed private investigators with a valid need for the information.
Joseph T. Grills Jr.
JOSEPH T. GRILLS, JR.