Cali Private eye sees that patience yields success

Record Staff Writer
Published Friday, Sep 23, 2005

Private eye David Brey worked in law enforcement for 13 years before going into business for himself. He says that this is not a business for those short on patience.

STOCKTON CA — When David Brey became a licensed private investigator in April, his eyes were unclouded by the romanticized images of the nonpolice detective portrayed in literature and film.

After 13 years in law enforcement, Brey knew that most successful investigative work is produced through plodding perseverance.

But he also believed that in addition to putting one foot in front of the other, a successful gumshoe must know how to tap dance, creatively stepping around the roadblocks thrown up in the course of an investigation.

His home-based Stockton business, David Brey Investigations, provides background checks, domestic-dispute and worker’s-compensation investigations and surveillance services primarily in San Joaquin and Sacramento counties.

On Wednesday, Brey talked about his life and his work … in his own words:

Becoming his own boss
“I took a criminal-justice course at Delta and got into law enforcement from there.

“I was a reserve officer for local law enforcement for three years while I worked other jobs.

“My intention was to become a regular officer, but when I got picked up to get hired, they saw I was a diabetic. That was during the early 1980s, before the ADA, so I had to put that on the back burner.

“Years later, I graduated from Stanislaus State with a bachelor of arts in criminal justice and got hired with the county probation department.

“It was OK, but the caseload was horrendous. You have 300 to 500 people on your caseload, and you’re expected to keep track of all of them.

“The county had a narcotics task force, which used to be called CRACNET, where I got into investigations.

“I then applied to be a special agent with the state, where I worked for more than five years in the narcotics and gambling divisions.

“Gambling was too slow-paced, so I decided to become my own boss and do private investigating.

“I was in law enforcement for more than 13 years.”

Public vs. private
“I liked the excitement. They always say that 80 percent of police work is boring, but you’ve got that 20 percent that keeps you going.

“If you’re in investigations, doing surveillance, and you’re an impatient person, you’re not going to last long.

“You have to wait and wait.

“When you’re in law enforcement, you have seven or eight guys with you.

“Working by myself is a lot different. Even bathroom breaks are few and far between.

“A lot of people think that criminals are stupid. They are often very intelligent.

“They might not be book-smart, but street-smart.

“Some I’ve seen in court seem to know as much as their attorney.

“I always try to outthink and keep one step ahead of the person I’m going after.

“Private investigators can be armed. I’m not. With what I’m doing, there’s not a need for it.

“When you’re a cop, you can’t take off if something is happening.

“Now, if I think there’s a situation that’s going to be dangerous, I’ll just turn on my car ignition and take off.”

Background counts
“The California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Security and Investigative Services regulates private investigators.

“They give you credit for having a bachelor’s degree and for investigative experience. For current or previous law enforcement officers, you need two years of investigative experience.

“Without investigative experience, it would be difficult to do surveillance or a public-records search.

“If a person wants to get started in this type of work, it helps to know people.

“I’ve been fortunate to know a few attorneys here in town and in Sacramento who shoot me some work, sometimes in worker’s-compensation fraud cases.”

Taking care of business
“Right now I’m working for a person in the city who thinks that a neighbor is running a business out of their residence.

“I asked if she had filed a complaint, but she said she’d rather get the goods on the person first. I can find out if the person has a license to conduct business from their home and can document their activities.

“I think it’s better to go in armed than with just a story.

Suspicious minds
“I also get a lot of calls where one spouse is cheating on the other or a situation with a boyfriend and girlfriend.

“I tell them that if their intuition is telling them that something isn’t right, then their assumption is probably correct.

“But they want to believe that they’re just imagining it, and they want proof that either something or nothing is going on.

“I always tell them that if I find out there is cheating, I don’t want them to cause the other person harm. I tell them it’s not worth it.

“I am wary of people who are trying to find an ex-girlfriend or an ex-wife because of the possibility of stalking. I ask questions.

“I think I’m a good judge of character, being in law enforcement for as long as I was. There’s always the possibility, though, that someone will give all the answers you want to hear.

“I try to stay away from becoming emotionally involved, but I do like to see people benefit from what I do.”

Contact reporter Michelle Machado at 209 943-8547 or