Pembroke resident and private investigator Glenn Christian has been appointed as the president of the Georgia Association of Professional Private Investigators, or GAPPI.
Christian says GAPPI is to PI’s what the bar association is to lawyers. Georgia has approximately 1,500 licensed private investigators.
Prior to his appointment, Christian had served two terms in the local GAPPI coastal chapter, in addition to a term as vice president.
Born and raised in Savannah, Christian’s parents retired near Blitchton. Sixteen years ago, Christian followed suit by buying a home in Pembroke, saying he wanted to enjoy the country life.
Before becoming a PI, Christian spent 21 years of his life in law enforcement, including 11 years as a member of the Bryan County Sheriff’s Department. With BCSD, his duties ranged from patrol commander to chief of investigations. A near-paralyzing auto accident in ’97 forcefully retired him from the department.
Christian was told he would never walk again. After beating the odds by healing from his injuries, he decided to open his own investigations firm in Savannah in 1998. His company has since flourished and now has branches in Atlanta and Asheville, North Carolina. Christian said he is looking at potential expansion to Dallas and Los Angeles. He said his firm takes on up to 140 cases per month.
"Everything happens for a reason," said Christian. "I miss police work, but the money is a lot better as a PI, and I’m doing essentially the same work."
"It’s not like it’s portrayed on TV," Christian said of his profession. "Columbo was a good show, but it’s not like that. They jazz it up for TV."
He joked about Tom Selleck’s character on Magnum PI. "Do you know how difficult it would be sitting on surveillance in a bright red Ferrari and a loud Hawaiian shirt?"
Although Christian did add there are some high profile places where a Ferrari or a jaguar would fit in. "You blend into the environment you cover," he said. "One time I threw on a pair of overalls with a hidden camera on them to videotape the abusing of animals at a livestock auction near Macon … the attorneys that hired me were able to prosecute because of that."
"That’s one of the many cases that make it all worthwhile – all the late nights and all the surveillance," said Christian.
"I have actually spent all night lying in an azalea bush waiting for something to happen," added Christian. "The spectrum of this job is so high; it goes from so boring to moments where your heart just beats out of your chest."
This led him to recall a case where he was staking out a home at the request of a Savannah dentist who thought his wife was cheating on him with his best friend.
A long, boring night got exciting in an instant when a woman walked up to the front door, entered and a series of gunshots rang out.
"Come to find out, my client’s wife was in bed with another woman and the shooter was yet another gay lover involved in a lover’s quarrel. My client was understandingly very shocked at the results of the investigation."
Christian said many of his walk-in clients involve domestic cases of suspected cheating.
He condemned the TV show "Cheaters", which appears to depict a PI conducting surveillance to solve a domestic case. He said he knows investigators that work with the show and it is all scripted. "On the program, they show investigators just enter a house; that’s illegal … it makes us look like a bunch of renegades kicking in doors and acting like police. We don’t do that."
"If you’re a good investigator, no one will ever know you’re there," said Christian. "Even if approached, you have multiple business cards with fake names … you use disguises. You also use digital recorders that are a small button on a shirt with wires that lead to a business card-sized recorder in your pocket."
Some of the other covert tactics Christian uses when tailing someone is to call other investigators and have them meet him with another car to pick up the trail. "It’s not uncommon to use two or three investigators on one case to avoid being burnt."
Some of the other cases Christian has tackled include: computer forensics, serving court papers when deputies cannot locate the recipient, expert witness testimony for the U.S. district court, investigating doctors involved in welfare theft and child custody cases.
Christian said no two cases are alike and each is completely unpredictable. "I’ve worked cases that I thought would be drawn out and solve them within a few hours," he said. "Then again, I’ve worked cases I thought would be real simple and they take weeks."
"It’s also impossible to gage how much case will end up costing," said Christian. "I had a case that ran $100,000 due to 24-hour surveillance with several guys … I’ve left my office before, jumped in my vehicle and followed someone on River Street and, by 10 o’clock that night, ended up in Cincinnati, Ohio."
When a case is solved, Christian then renders a packet to his clients with a photo CD, a digital DVD of video footage and a report to chronologically match up with the photographic evidence.
For more information about the Georgia Association of Professional Private Investigators, Inc. (GAPPI), visit www.gappi.org. For more information about Mr. Christian and Coastal Investigators, visit www.coastal-investigations.com.