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Crime victims and their families turning toward private investigators for help

Clients tell private investigator they "want more" than what law enforcement is doing

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Crime victims and their families are increasingly turning to private investigators to help solve their cases.
What is driving the trend?

A valley P.I. says a number of his new clients are not satisfied with how their cases are being investigated by law enforcement agencies impacted by budget cuts and layoffs.

A Southland man hired a private investigator to help crack a case of sexual abuse involving his daughter.
Mike Simpfenderfer recalled the moment in 2009, when his then 13 year old daughter Taylor told him that someone very close to the family had sexually abused her.

"You feel everything from what did I not do to protect her to how could this happen to my child, you cry inside," said Simpfenderfer.

After filing a report with Los Angeles County Sheriff's detectives, Simpfenderfer decided to get extra help in seeking justice for his daughter.
He hired valley private investigator Luis Bolanos.

Simpfenderfer says the investigator was able to secure information now critical to the pending civil case against the man accused of molesting his daughter.

"He gave me invaluable insight and information that we needed that has helped us to this day," said Simpfenderfer.

The demand for private investigators is certainly on the rise.

Investigators are part of a broader category of "security related services", in which consumer spending is forecast to grow at more than 6 percent per year over the next few years, reaching almost $20 billon dollars a year by 2016 according to industry analysts.

Like many private investigators, Robert Nichols of Rancho Mirage once worked as a law enforcement officer. 

Nichols says upwards of 20 percent of his clients approach him saying they are not satisfied with how their cases are being handled by detectives in law enforcement.

"I have a lot of victims of crimes that call me saying they've made police reports.  They have the police involved, but they want more, and they don't understand a lot of the time how busy law enforcement is," said Nichols.

Palm Desert Police Captain Kevin Vest says experienced and licensed private investigators can play a useful role, especially in cases like missing persons or financial crimes.

But Vest also warns it is not unheard of for some private investigators to use questionable tactics while working on a case, and in some instances, might secure information or evidence that can't be used. 

"My reservations are one obviously, who the detective is that is doing the work.  Secondly, is what they obtain.  Is what they find admissable in court here?  Is it going to be a benefit to the prosecution?" asked Vest.

Simpfenderfer says he and his daughter Taylor have a very strong case against the accused, and are grateful for the work done by Luis Bolanos.

After trying to take her own life three years ago, Taylor is now appearing in Youtube videos with her dad, raising awareness about child sex abuse and neglect.

Also, after finishing highschool one year ahead of schedule, the 17 year old is now preparing for a career in real estate.

"Now she has moved on from being a victim, to surviving, to thriving," said her father.

Taylor and her dad are also now advocates for the group "PAVE", which stands for "Promoting Awareness - Victim Empowerment".

You can find the group's website at

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