“We’re The Cat, They’re The Mouse”: The Life of a Private Investigator

Glenn Starleton talks the early mornings and long days that make up his out-of-the-box career.

 

Glenn has been in the business for twenty five years. Source: Frances Vinall
Glenn has been in the business for twenty five years. Source: Frances Vinall

It’s some time around 5 am: still dark, and Glenn Starleton is sitting inside his car. He isn’t moving, and probably won’t be for a while yet. It’s the middle of winter, bone-chillingly cold, but he isn’t using the heater. Turning the car on will draw too much attention to himself.

He doesn’t know the inhabitant of the house he’s parked in front of – at least not personally. But for the rest of the day he’ll be following their every move.

No, he isn’t a stalker, or suffering from some kind of mental imbalance. Glenn is a private investigator. For him, this is just another day at the office.

“What we do is buy and sell information,” Glenn explains, with more than a trace of pride.

“We pass on information to clients and clients use the information, to get in contact with previous loved ones, or whatever.” “Clients are amazed at what we can actually get; where we can get the information from, and how we get it.”

“Clients are amazed at what we can actually get; where we can get the information from, and how we get it.”

 

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Glenn is the director of MPOL, a company that provides surveillance, background checks, and electronic de-bugging. Clients will contact his team for both corporate and personal reasons: anything from checking up on their kids to ridding their boardrooms of listening devices.

According to Glenn, it’s this variety that keeps the job interesting.

“On a day-to-day basis we never know who’s going to call or what they’ll want,” he says. “It’s never the same; it’s never boring or mundane. And we get to meet a lot of interesting people – clientele, and also the people that we watch.”

“It’s never the same; it’s never boring or mundane. And we get to meet a lot of interesting people – clientele, and also the people that we watch.”

He’s speaking to me in a meeting room at MPOL’s office: an inconspicuous black building in Carnegie, neighboured by bicycle warehouses and an Officeworks.

Throughout our interview his demeanor is as no-nonsense and professional as his occupation. He speaks like he’s filling out a police report – it’s not “women” or “girls,” it’s “females.” It’s not noticing a person; it’s “securing the target.” Even just in conversation, there’s an astounding attention to detail, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the high-stakes world that he’s describing.

Like this analogy, for example: “The thrill of it is the cat and mouse game,” Glenn says of a day on the job. “We’re the cat, they’re the mouse. Although we don’t actually catch them, we’re staying with them, keeping observation of where they are all the time. It’s what keeps us going.”

“It’s an unpredictable situation, because we never know what the person is going to do.”

He even uses the kind of Bond-like equipment commonly associated with private eyes. A remote control car lock, a phone, a simple pen – all of these, if you see them in Glenn’s hands, are more likely to be high-tech colour recording devices, that will date and time anything he captures.

“The industry has come that far electronically, whereas before we used to have to carry these massive 9mm cameras around,” Glenn remembers, laughing. “Everyone would see it – you had no place to hide!”

 

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His job isn’t all skirting around corners and secretly taping people however – Glenn says there is also a fulfilling side to the business that may not be obvious to most people at first.

“It’s a very rewarding area, because you do actually put a lot of people who have lost contact with each other for a number of years back in contact with each other. You get a lot of satisfaction out of that,” he says.

“With the matrimonial side of things, a lot of people come here just for closure,” he continues. “They just want to know the truth. And once they have the truth, they can have closure on whatever issues they may have in their own personal relationship.”

After twenty-five years in surveillance, Glenn has had plenty of experience. But what was so inviting about taking on such a time-consuming and immersive job in the first place?

“I basically had an interest in investigations, and because I’m a very analytical type of person, that’s what has driven me in this career more than anything else,” Glenn muses.

“I’m always aware of my surroundings. There’s no time that you’re not picking up information and analysing it all the time; what’s around you. It becomes a habit.”

It definitely isn’t the career for everyone, but Glenn seems to be thriving. And as for you, residents of Carnegie – if you’ve been cheating on your spouse, lying to your parents, or make a habit out of spying on your corporate rivals, then consider yourself warned.

Glenn could be on your case as we speak.

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