What does it take to be a private investigator?
Just ask two retired cops.
George Freitas is a 37-year law enforcement veteran, and was Kaua‘i County chief of police from 1995 to 2003.
His wife, Elizabeth, has 13 years of law enforcement experience in California.
That’s 50 years of experience between them.
Their part-time private eye business, Freitas and Freitas Private Investigators, began soon after Elizabeth arrived on-island in 2001. Initially a polygraph examiner, she founded Freitas and Freitas when attorneys asked her to do investigative work.
She handles the bulk of their business, which consists of polygraph exams, and George takes on the smaller side, doing investigative work for attorneys.
Elizabeth estimated that they’ve worked 70 cases so far.
“We’ve done homicides, real estate, traffic fatalities, adoption, missing persons,” she said. “A little bit of everything.”
When asked to investigate, George said an attorney may present a way to approach a case and then the husband and wife team take it from there.
For a traffic fatality, they look at police reports, check to see if all the physical evidence was collected and sometimes consult a traffic reconstruction expert.
“(They will) reconstruct time frames on where has this person been before, if there was alcohol involved, if people were serving alcohol when they should not have been,” George said. “They reconstruct where the person was before.”
Elizabeth said sometimes police investigating traffic incidents only look into circumstances immediately surrounding the wreck.
“We go beyond that,” she said. “Sometimes the family wants to find out.”
The husband-wife team doesn’t take cases where someone calls out of the blue. In fact, they only accept cases through a select group of attorneys, and only sometimes.
“We’ll turn down cases, and we pick and choose,” Elizabeth said. “It has to be a case that we believe in.”
In their line of work, the Freitases have to put up with stereotypes about private investigators hiding in the bushes with a camera.
George said interviewing people is a much better way of getting information.
“The computer comes in handy for background checks, but really, it’s about getting out there and talking to people,” she said. “People on Kaua‘i are amazingly open and friendly. They’ll help if you ask.”
She said they don’t compete with other private investigators on the island because each company specializes or will not take on certain types of cases. For example, Freitas and Freitas doesn’t do workers’ compensation cases.
George said the satisfaction of hard hours of investigating comes when an attorney calls and says a case is going to be settled.
• Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or firstname.lastname@example.org.