"Skip Tracing Basics"
Locating defendants or persons with information critical
to a client’s case is a routine assignment for
investigators. We have a myriad of resources available
to us that can assist in our efforts. The proverbial
“paper trail” we create as we go through life, from a
birth certificate all the way through our eventual death
certificate, many documents punctuate our voyage along
the way. Additionally, we have a multitude of sources to
check when searching for almost any American: all of the
computer databases, voter registration indices, civil
and criminal court filings, the telephone book,
crisscross directories, Motor Vehicle Department
records, credit card records, Social Security data,
sometimes police reports, and the list goes on forever.
"Cell Phone Ping"|
There are information brokers that "Ping" a specified cell phone and
provide you with it's exact location. If you know the cellular phone
number of the person you are trying to arrest, you
can ping their cell phone, get their location, and dispatch a bounty
hunter to their location.
Very effective way to find a tough criminal. There are several brokers
selling pings at this point, costs range from $200 to $500 per ping.
Not a cheap tool, but very effective when everything else has failed
to find you your skip.
In some cases, you may want to prepare a
“Missing” or a “Reward” poster, whichever is appropriate
for where you intend on putting them. These are useful
for leaving with businesses or individuals, posting in
shelter agencies and areas where other homeless people
may frequent; give them to people you interview along
your way. The posters may generate additional leads on
your subject’s whereabouts, particularly if there is a
reward offered for information. The posters should
include a picture of the subject, name, description,
maybe a reason why you are looking for the subject and
how to contact you if someone has information. If a
reward is offered for information it should say so on
the poster. If you use a “Missing” poster ensure you
create a believable pretext why the defendant needs to
|Free Bounty Hunting Skip Tracing Information, Tips & Tricks|
A bounty hunter is a
person who hunts down and captures fugitives from
justice. Typically bounty hunters work just like a
private investigator who is hired to find someone, only
that bounty hunters mainly work for bail bondsmen to
catch people who fail to appear on bail and have arrest
powers over the fugitive.
Bounty hunters serve as an important resource of the
criminal justice system in the United States, tracking
down and capturing thousands of fugitives from
justice every year.
|Skip Tracing Tools and Links|
California Bail Agent's
Association - California Bail Bondsmen Association.|
FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted List - No group of Bounty
Hunting links would be complete without the FBI's top
ten most wanted list.
Offender Search - Free search of sex offender
Watch - San Jose's most wanted fugitives.
Marshal's Service - For over 200 years, U.S.
Marshals and their Deputies have served as the
instruments of civil authority by all three branches of
the U.S. government.
Secret Service - Protection & Investigations.
|Bounty Hunting Tips and Tricks|
What do you do, however, when the subject of your search
is not in the mainstream of society? When there are no
telltale signs we normally find along the paper trail?
Is it even possible? Does it happen very often? Yes, it
can happen, and more often today than ever before. |
An expanding segment of our population does not leave
the usual clues, but a record is nevertheless created.
These are the homeless Americans we have all read and
heard about more and more over the last few years. There
are now many thousands of these people in this country,
and if you haven’t already encountered them in your
work, the chances are quickly increasing that you will.
These people are on the streets for many reasons; they
are “on the run”, they lost their jobs or homes, have no
appreciable job skills or the ability to find work. They
may be mentally impaired, physically ill, or may be
alcohol and drug abusers, but whatever the reason,
chances are you will deal with them in a future
investigation, especially as it relates to the criminal
Because of their vulnerability and sometimes their own
acts, street people are turning up in increasing numbers
as the victims, witnesses and perpetrators in criminal
incidents. Over the last few years, my company has been
called on to help locate a number of these defendants.
In one case, the victim, the assailants and the
witnesses (who all knew and traveled with each other)
were transients living under a bridge a few blocks from
downtown Austin, Texas.
How do you go about locating these people? Some street
people may not want to be located while others aren’t
intentionally avoiding discovery but will still be hard
to locate because of the lack of the usual leads,
Do not make the gaffe of thinking that because homeless
people have no visible means of support that they are
restricted from moving long distances in a relatively
short period of time. I have found street people in
Central Texas who have come from Michigan, California,
Mexico, New York, and points beyond. They travel to more
moderate climates, to places where they have heard it
was easier to get handouts or avoid prosecution,
sometimes just on a whim; they do wander and sometimes
to far off places. In the case mentioned earlier, we
found that upon hearing that we had apprehended his
co-defendant, a bail fugitive had traveled from Austin
to Dallas; a distance of almost 195 miles in only a few
To start your investigation, you need some lead or basis
to believe that your subject is in a certain area. That
information may be developed from the subject’s old
friends, relatives, associates, ex-employers, or your
client (if acquainted with or related to the subject).
The subject may have written or called someone and given
an indication of location or destination.
Always check the jails in adjoining or nearby counties!
Next, check with the local police department. In most
cities you can get incident reports that list dates, times,
locations and the primary participants. If you do turn
up a record of police contact with your subject, it is
probably outdated unless the subject is in another jail
or in a hospital. However, as limited as they may be,
the records can confirm that your subject was in the
area on a certain date and time. They may also pinpoint
the area where your subject hangs out regularly.
Hospitals and morgues are the two other institutions
that commonly have contact with the transient population
and are about the only ones that come from the routine
checklist you may usually follow.
Your next step is to develop two lists; the first is of
shelter agencies that cater to transients; the second is
a list of places that these people typically congregate.
These two lists will probably have common
characteristics, but there will be separate, distinct
locations on each. Various places you might find on the
first list are:
• Salvation Army locations
• Churches and church-sponsored locations, including
• Privately funded charity organizations
• YMCAs, YWCAs, etc.
In many places, street people have formed coalitions or
associations to help deal with their problems. Any of
these organizations may he able to help you locate your
subject or give you other leads. On your list of
locations frequented by transients you will find:
• Bus or train stations
• Plasma centers that purchase blood from donors (and
other income sources)
• Day-worker pickup locations where they can obtain
labor jobs lot a short period
• Common street locations where transients frequent:
In the vicinity of the shelter agencies like the
Parks, bridges, highway overpasses, etc (protection from
In Austin there is an area called “The Drag”, a portion
of a major street that runs along the west side of the
University of Texas campus. There are several places
here where transients gather to exchange information
about shelter locations and where to get free handouts.
They panhandle passers-by, share food or drink, and if
they can afford it, drugs. In this particular location,
they also pass out or just fall asleep on the sidewalk.
Once you have compiled your lists of places to look and
checked with the jails, police, and hospitals then you
are almost ready for the ground-search.
Hopefully you have obtained some or all of the
• Subject’s full name, aliases, nicknames
• Age and/or date of birth
• A photograph, as recent as possible, and physical
• Medical data (illnesses or deformities)
• Mental health information
Aside from a little research and possibly some telephone
work, you are going to wear out some shoe leather and be
dealing directly with people when you work a case
involving these people. If you are one of those
investigators who can’t stand computers and you like to
do your investigations the old-fashioned way, you are
going to love this type of ease.
In making your way around the various shelter
organizations, you nay run into problems getting
information from some of them. A number of the
facilities keep records of the people who pass through
them; for example, the Salvation Army shelter in Austin
keeps an index card on every individual who spends the
night. The card shows a name, the date the subject
stayed and has a short questionnaire for the subject to
fill out about any health or mental problems. But many
facilities have policies or legal restrictions
preventing them from divulging much, if any, useful
information. In those cases it is often helpful to have
a copy of the defendant’s warrant with you. Most
facility operators don’t want the trouble that often
comes on the heels of a fugitive investigation and not
If you are going to use a pretext method, I recommend
leaving a message for the subject to pick up (if
appropriate to the case). Many facilities will take such
a message for the subject and post it for their clients
to receive if they come in to stay. Be sure to leave a
“Missing” poster and your business card with the
supervisor and the desk clerk. We have had several cases
where, after we had made contact with the facility
management, we received anonymous tips that our subject
was at a specific location, most often at one or two
o’clock in the morning.
Finally, you have to go to the various locations visited
by other homeless people, talk to the people and check
for leads or information. Talking lo these people is not
always easy. They are often uninterested, evasive,
drunk, or trying to manipulate the investigator into
giving them a handout. So it will take all of your
interviewing skills and some patience to get information
you can use.
Remember the following steps as you go about your
• Obtain a description of your subject and define a
starting location for your search
• Check jail logs and other local records
• Develop lists of shelter agencies and locations
frequented by transients.
• Make a “Missing” or “Wanted” poster in appropriate
• Contact shelter agencies.
• Check the areas frequented by transients.