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Private detectives filling gaps left by police budget cuts

Residents across cash-strapped states are increasingly turning to private detectives as cities and towns cut police forces to contend with deep budget cuts.

February 20, 2013|By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times

Employment in investigation and security services, on the other hand, started ticking up in early 2009, and has grown 5.1% since then, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The decline in police funding means cities such as Camden have to pick their battles. The city broke its own record last year when it had 67 murders.

"With our budget cuts, obviously, we have to treat things like triage," said Robert Corrales, a spokesman for the city. "We handle the more pressing situations before routine traffic stops or speeding tickets."

At times, police and private detectives can be antagonists, such as when private detectives are hired by defendants to go over police work and figure out where law enforcement might have missed evidence, or didn't follow through on a case.

Recently, a mother called Blaettler, begging him to get her son out of jail, where she said he was being held for a murder he didn't commit. Blaettler found evidence about the man's alibi that the police hadn't followed up on, and helped the man get out of jail, leaving police without a suspect.

But other times, police and private detectives work together.

Police netted the driveway lurker with Glemser's help, for instance. Once he got off the phone with the woman, Glemser settled in outside the house for an old-fashioned stakeout.

The next time the car lurked in the driveway, the woman's husband was home. He called the police, who had started paying attention because Glemser had alerted them to his work. They tracked down the bad guy by his license plate number.

Glemser took on her case for free, something some detectives are doing in this age of austerity.

In another case, Glemser headed into Camden — one of the most dangerous cities in the country — to find a prostitute who had warrants out for her arrest. Police weren't arresting her, though, and her mother hired Glemser to bring her home. The private eye posed as a john, asking others for the woman named Christine, until he found her and brought her home. Her mother has checked her into rehab.

"I didn't feel like the police were going to help me any way at all," said Christine's mother, Joanne, an administrator who lives in Milford, Pa., and wanted the family's last name kept private while her daughter goes to rehab. "In Camden, they have so few police now, and there's so much violence and drug problems, they just push it all under the rug."

alana.semuels@latimes.com

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