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Private investigators' spy tools getting more high-tech

Posted May 13, 2011

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— The term “private eye” often conjures up images of long trench coats, binoculars and hiding behind newspapers, but technology is transforming the work of today’s private investigators.

Retired Raleigh police officer Katherine Flowers started Cat's Eye Private Investigations LLC 14 years ago, and her passion to spy is now a booming business.

“This can easily be a million-dollar-a-year business if a person works really hard,” Flowers said.

Hard work, plus the latest spy tools, help private investigators. Flowers demonstrated one of her tools, a concealed camera within a Coke can.

“Isn’t this amazing?” she said. “Right there is the actual camera, and right there is the audio.”

She also uses watches, sunglasses, key chains, lighters and a myriad of other devices to help her spy, but the biggest technology game changer by far has been a little GPS tracker.

Installed with a powerful magnet under cars, the GPS tracker is cutting the costs of investigations. The secret weapon may be the death of the never-ending stake-out.

“They’re actually reserved. People have to literally reserve this device,” Flowers said. “You literally have a device that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It doesn’t get sleepy. It doesn’t get tired. It can do everything but see.”

The device allows investigators to see. Flowers’ computer monitor showed 10 unsuspecting client targets being tracked in the Triangle.

“This car is actually moving right now in the Chapel Hill area,” she said.

Flowers set up hot zones, areas where a suspect shouldn't be headed.

“So if a vehicle even enters an area, that tracking device will send us a text message to our phone, and we get an alert that that person is in an area they shouldn’t be, and then we’ll immediately dispatch to that area,” she said.

private eye Private investigators get more high-tech

One of Cat's Eye investigators, Flowers’ husband, had a tracker on woman suspected of cheating on her lunch break. If she made a move, the new high-tech devices would tell the tale of deception.

“The facts and the people remain the same, but the technology has just taken us so far in advance,” Flowers said. “It’s come so far, I don’t even know what’s around the corner for us.”

Cat's Eye stays booked out two weeks, and many of its recent cases involve companies wanting to spy on employees faking worker's comp. Catching cheating spouses is another popular reason people use private investigators.

“To be honest, people have actually come into our office and collapsed before, just watching this footage,” Flowers said.

Cat's Eye charges $70 to $85 an hour. For those looking to hire private investigators, make sure they are licensed with the state of North Carolina.


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  • ljencks May 17, 2011

    There's been recent discussion about the legality of GPS trackers, as well as devices to detect them, on the www.PInow.com yahoo group site at http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/private-investigators-PInow/.

  • ckblackm May 13, 2011

    Is there anything that can detect those devices?

  • ckblackm May 13, 2011

    What statutes does using that device violate, rkba? (I dunno.. that's why I'm asking)

  • WRALSUCKS May 13, 2011

    WRAL doesn't mention that using such a device on someones car as she brags about doing, is illegal.