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Access to Public Data by Computer Makes Private Investigations Quicker

In the world of the corporate detective, information is invaluable. But with the myriad of public records scattered statewide, the value of the data rests largely in the time it takes to get it all. The more time-consuming or difficult the data-gathering process, the more clients pay for the service.

So, several firms that specialize in corporate investigations research have brought some of that public information in-house.

The offices of Intertect Inc. and Kimmons Investigative Services, Inc. contain mini-repositories of such records as state court suits, incorporation and assumed name indexes, property deeds and liens, as well as state automobile and federal aircraft registrations.

With that kind of data, much of it on microfiche in the office, the private investigators & detectives can do more research for the client in a shorter period. Only recently has public-source data become available in them.

“In the past, you had to drive to the courthouse, stand in line and sift through piles of documents,” said Intertect President Edmund J. Pankau Jr. “Investigations that took 20 hours three years ago takes four hours now, and (the client) can get a response the same day.”

“This is purely an information business,”said Pankau, 41, who is an avid sport fisherman, “The more information you have, the more work you can do, and the cheaper it becomes.”

Three years ago, Intertect clients would have paid upwards of $750 to $1,000 for a report that would have taken those 20 hours to complete. Today, a much more thorough search can be done and a report prepared for $250.

As Intertect expands into markets outside Texas, Its master pool of information also grows because the firm lines up to buy or time-share whatever public data sources are available, Pankau said.

That not only benefits new clients in those markets, but existing customers as well because future background searches an individual or company can be more thorough, operators say.

Kimmons Investigative Services last year spent over $25,000, and will spend much this year, to buy microfiche files containing thousands of real property documents, and other kinds of city, county, and state records. The firm’s data never grow outdated, said Rob L. Kimmons, 35, who is president and owner.

“We don’t throw any information away,”he said of findings from earlier searches. “We put it on microfiche and store it. So much of our business is repeat and that lowers our overhead.”

Despite the fast research turnaround, there is a limit on the amount of facts available at the fingertips, experts say.

“Things are becoming more computerized, but there will never be one master computer,”said Prankau.

By Gregory Seay, Houston Post

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