We have been hired on several different cases to assist our clients in protecting them from dangerous and/or threatening individuals…whether it be a workplace violence type of situation where a person has been terminated and there is reason to believe there could be some kind of retaliation, or a domestic situation where emotions are high and we are worried about an unstable person who feels that if they can’t have the other person, no one will have them.
A number of these cases have involved incidents of workplace violence and several others involved situations that necessitated court orders to protect the victims. Court orders of this nature can have different names, depending on what part of the country the activity is taking place in as well as the specifics of the situation. Below are some of the more common names for court orders that are designed to provide safety, security and peace of mind to victims:
Temporary Restraining Order (T.R.O.)
Temporary Protection Order (T.P.O.)
Anti-Stalking Protection Order (A.P.O.)
Civil Stalking Protection Order (C.P.O.)
Domestic Violence Stalking Protection Order (D.V.S.P.O.)
Civil Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order (C.S.O.O.P.O.)
Personal Protection Order (P.P.O.)
One of the primary common denominators in these situations s is a person that seems to feel that they have nothing to lose at this point. Whether they’ve lost their job, or their family has fallen apart, their emotions are high and they seem to have lost touch with reality (Below is a video that somewhat describes what people in these circumstances might be dealing with).
In one of these cases, our client (We’ll call her “Mary”), had been a victim of domestic violence (Her husband broke her nose by punching her in the face) after she informed him that she was leaving him. She did not have him arrested for the assault, but she did move out of their house with their three children, into her parents’ house, who lived about 20 minutes away in another east side suburb.
Her husband, “Jim,” had once threatened her that if she ever left him, he would kill her and the memory of him saying this to her was constantly replayed in her mind over the next several days. Additionally, Jim was constantly calling and texting since she had left, sometimes saying nice and loving things and other times, saying things like, “If I can’t have you, no one will.” Emotionally, he was all over the board.
Jim was also calling her cell phone while she was at work. When she would send his call to voicemail, he would call her through her work’s land line, first on her direct line, then through the main operator of the business. He was dialing her non-stop, nearly 30 times a day at work, alone.
These calls prompted her to seek a Temporary Protection Order with the court.
Thankfully, all of the calls stopped at once when he was served with the TPO (Temporary Protection Order). She did not hear from Jim for two days. He did not call or text her one time.
Only three days after filing for the order, Mary was awakened at 1am at her parents house by knocking at the door. When her father answered the door, Jim was standing there asking to speak with her.
He finally left after her father threatened to call the police, but of course, after a few more sleepless nights on her and her parents part, he was back a few days later, which did prompt her to call the police. The police came and said that they would keep an eye out for him. They also offered to make a report for her, but she declined to make a report. The police did have her call the ex-husband on his cell phone and when he answered, they told him that by coming to the house, he was in violation of the Protection Order. He denied having come to the house, or anywhere near it. They warned him that if they did find him in the area, he would be arrested. Mary decided not to have the police complete a report, hoping that the words of the policeman would suffice.
Of course, a week later, at about 2:30am, on another sleepless night, Mary had an uneasy feeling. She got up out of bed and as she passed by her window, she saw what looked like her husband’s car parked on the street, two doors down. Once again, her heart began to race and after she convinced herself that she wasn’t dreaming she went and woke her father up and he called the police. Probably because her father turned his bedroom light on while looking for his shotgun and ammo in the closet, the vehicle left before the police could arrive ten minutes later.
Again, the police called Jim, and again he denied that he had been in the area. He even feigned as if he had been sleeping when they called.
After a few more very restless nights of sleep for Mary and her parents, and another call to the police, Mary’s father went to the police station, himself and spoke with the police chief, who he had gone school with, about the situation. The chief explained that his men would be on the lookout for the vehicle and they would give “special attention” to the house as they could, but they couldn’t post a vehicle outside the house for any designated periods of time.
The chief also suggested either a home security system or contacting our company, Integrity Investigations, to explore some options that might help provide some security and/or peace of mind in the situation. He and members of his detective bureau had referred people to our company in connection with similar situations in the past, and knowing that we, ourselves are police officers when not doing P.I. work, we wouldn’t suggest anything illegal or in conflict with the interests of his police officers or their investigations.
Mary and her father called our office that afternoon and scheduled a meeting with Kristen, our investigations manager, the next morning. Kristen suggested our Covert GPS tracking service and also a survey and audit of their present home security system. An update to the video surveillance system was also suggested, to include infrared and HD (high definition) capabilities.
Here is basically how the covert GPS tracking program works. We have our ways of getting the GPS tracker on the target’s vehicle. The legalities of covert GPS tracking vary from state to state, but at the time of this writing, covert (unknown to the person being tracked) GPS tracking handled by a licensed Private Investigator is still legal under most circumstances in most states. Covert GPS Tracking is also legal if done by a certified law enforcement officer, in the course of his duties, but that officer will also need a search warrant signed by a judge since, due to a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, it is now a 4th Amendment issue (which only applies to law enforcement activity).
Once the tracker is installed, we will have the ability to track the vehicle wherever it goes. We can set up what we call geofences, to notify us whenever the vehicle comes within any specified distance of our client’s home, place of work or anywhere else we want to keep an eye on. When a geofence is pierced (the vehicle with the tracker on it enters or exits that geographic area), we will instantly receive a text message and/or email message, prompting us to log onto our system and see what is going on.
So, back to Mary’s case…
We installed the GPS tracker that very afternoon on Jim’s BMW sedan while he was at work. His vehicle was parked in a parking lot and we were able to do it without him, or anyone else, knowing it was done. We immediately set up geofences around Mary’s parents’ house. We created this geofence to cover about a 5-mile radius around her parents’ house, since there was really no other reason that we knew of that Jim had for being within that area. If he entered that area, we would be instantly alerted and we could alert Mary and her parents.
We also put a geofence around Mary’s place of work which was a large insurance company on the east side of town. Now, Mary’s place of work was not too far from Jim’s place of work. In fact, it was in the same city. We created that geofence to be only big enough to cover the actual footprint of property and adjacent properties of the building where she worked. This way, we would be alerted were he to visit her at work, but we wouldn’t have to be alerted everytime he went to his own place of work.
The security personnel at Mary’s workplace were made aware of the situation and given a picture of Jim. However, this alone, obviously wouldn’t have helped much had Jim decided to find Mary’s car in the parking lot and wait for her come out.
Our first red flag came four days later when one of my office personnel noticed that our subject, Jim, had been to a gun store and shooting range in a neighboring county the evening before. Since Jim had been an officer in the Navy after college, we knew that he knew how to operate a firearm, but to Mary’s knowledge, he didn’t own any firearms.
Since I personally knew the gun store owner, I called him to see if we could figure out what Jim’s visit was about. None of the employees recalled anything peculiar about anyone, including Jim, that day. A review of the gun store’s surveillance cameras revealed that Jim had been in the store for about 15 minutes and that he looked at a variety of firearms, including some semi-automatic pistols and an assault rifle. He had inquired about pricing, but did not go so far as to try and buy any weapons.
That very evening, at about 1am, we received an alert from the GPS monitoring system that Jim had entered the geofence area where Mary was staying with her parents. We alerted one of our investigators, an off-duty Cleveland police detective named Tim, to respond to the area in his personal vehicle. Tim was able to park in front of a house a couple of doors down from Mary’s parents’ house and get his camcorder ready (He also had his 9mm pistol in his lap). Tim was able to monitor the location of Jim’s BMW as it drove, apparently aimlessly, through the surrounding neighborhoods. Jim’s vehicle finally came down the street, and Jim recorded the vehicle and the license plate as it slowly passed by the house Mary was in. The vehicle continued on around the corner and Tim was able to continue watching on his iPhone in real-time as the vehicle circled around. Tim recorded the vehicle again as it made another pass by the house. The vehicle then continued out of the housing development and back toward Jim’s home.
Tim decided to follow the vehicle this time. He caught up with it as Jim stopped for gas at 24-hour gas station outside of the geofenced area. Tim was able to get more video as Jim put gas in his car and walked up to the store to make some kind of purchase inside. Jim then started to drive back toward Mary’s parents’ house, but he turned around short of their development and then drove back to his own home. Tim sat on him at his own home for about an hour until he saw that Jim turned out his bedroom light.
The video evidence was forwarded to our office staff in the morning and a report was prepared to go with it. We notified Mary and her father who, ironically enough, had just had their first night of sound sleep since the ordeal had begun. Although they were creeped out by the news, they were grateful we were on top of the situation and Mary’s father said he felt confident in his daughter’s safety. He did say that he would like a call on his cell phone if anything similar happened again.
A copy of the the video evidence and report were forwarded to Mary’s attorney and a call was made to the detective and prosecutor handling the case.
While we waited for a response from the detective and the prosecutor, the business day passed by without any response from either. That night, we received another alert from the tracking system. Jim’s BMW had pierced the geofence again, this time not until 2:30am. Our investigator, Tim, was already in the area, parked in front of the house where Mary was staying. He had also called Mary’s father, as instructed, who had chosen to sleep on the couch in his home that night.
Tim watched as the icon for the BMW moved closer to his location on his iPhone. The icon stopped at the entrance to the development. It stayed there for several minutes before Tim decided to take a closer look in person. Before he rounded the corner, he could see blue strobe lights reflecting off the houses. Once he made the turn, he could see that a marked police car had pulled the BMW over and a second marked police car was behind the first one, both with their strobe lights on.
Tim continued past the scene and could see that Jim was not in his vehicle, but was in the rear of the first police car. He drove out of the neighborhood and re-entered through another entrance, continuing back to the parents’ house where he parked his car and called Mary’s father to update him on the situation.
After another 15 minutes, Tim was able to watch on his cell phone as the BMW moved from the area. Not knowing if Jim had been arrested or if he had left as a free man, Tim caught up with the BMW on the freeway and was able to see that Jim was in fact driving. Tim followed Jim back to his own house, where he suspended the surveillance.
Again, the video and report were completed in the morning and forwarded. The officers who had stopped Jim spoke with the detectives in the morning, advising them about how they had stopped Jim and warned him regarding the T.P.O. This time, the prosecutor put both instances together. After reviewing our video and reports and speaking with the police detective, an arrest warrant was issued for Jim.
Jim was arrested at his place of work that afternoon on the warrant. He spent the next 30 days in jail and we continued to monitor him for a period of time after that.
Thankfully, he did not violate the protection order after that incident. I’d like to think that he just needed to get past that highly emotional period of time when he felt as if his world was falling apart, and I’d like to think that we helped him get past it without anyone getting hurt.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows that they can hire a private investigator to help with a situation like this, and even if they did, not everyone can afford this kind of service.
If you’re thinking this might be a service you’d be interested in, feel free to give our office a call. We have provided this service for years in Ohio and more recently in different areas of the country where the service wasn’t available locally.
Not to scare you, but I’ve attached a series a videos, below that highlight other cases where a “protection” or “restraining” order simply wasn’t enough.
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Paul Baeppler is currently a full-time police lieutenant with 25 years on the job. He also runs several private investigation and security businesses, licensed in Ohio, California and New York.