I want to talk a little about the Fugitive Recovery Business. I am going to write a series of articles on the Fugitive Recovery Business to give hose that are interested an opinion to consider, from a person that has been in the business, that REALLY has "been there an done that"...
First it might be smart to give some background on myself, so you'll know that the person that is writing this article has a background that indicates that he knows what he is writing about.
There was a time when Fugitive Recovery Work was exciting, and most people in the business got along and networked. But there was a time when Fugitive Recovery Work was just a job, a way to earn a living, to put food on the table for your family. One thing Fugitive Recovery Work was NEVER meant to be was publicised!
I have worked in the Fugitive Recovery Profession for a long, long time. I started out in 1989 assisting a high school friend of mine who chose to become a Bail Bondsman with recovering his fugitives. I found I had a knack for it, and quickly rose to a large Bail Bonds Company's Head Fugitive Recovery Agent. It was a decent job, but it seemed like the hours were longer than the pay. It is also easy to get "burned out" when you stay on the road and away from your home more than you stay at home. Eventually I changed positions and became the Office Manager for the Bail Bonds Company I was working for. I must admit I was "burned out". I met some good Recovery Agents in the beginning stages of my long journey through the Fugitive Recovery Business; like Odell Jones and these were the people that have enriched my life, which is why given the choice I don't think I'd change anything about my past.
I realized that there was a lot more money in running my own Fugitive Recovery Business than there was in working for someone else. I had the experience, I knew the Bail Bonding "game", made some really good contacts, and I was ready to run my own business; or so I thought...
Here is a lesson for anyone wanting to run their own business, and you have to listen carefully. You can be the very best at what you do, and not understand business and completely fail at running your business despite being the best at what you do. You can be the worst at what you do, and understand how business works, and you will last a little while in your business, just long enough for your clients to realize that you are the worst at what you do. You have to understand business, and be good at what you are offering to your clients to succeed. The business world can be an unforgiving beast, and if you can learn those unforgiving lessons and stay in business, YOU ARE A SUCCESS!
I started my own Fugitive Recovery Business after I left my office manager position, and I did pretty well as far as successfully locating and apprehending the fugitives that my clients gave me to find. My ONLY advertisement was "word of mouth" and I was picking up 3 to 5 clients a week. There was always another Bail Bondsman calling to see what I'd charge to locate and apprehend his or her fugitive. What I did not understand is that "business is business", if you want to do charity work, start a charity. If you want to be in business, then conduct business. I did a lot of favors for a lot of people, what I did not understand is that favors are easily forgotten. My lack of understanding of business took it's toll and I had to go back to work for a Bail Bonds Company; but that was okay I was marketable by this time.
I went to work for one of the largest Bail Bonds Companies in the state of North Carolina at the time. Again, it was not that hard for me to rise up to Chief Recovery Agent, I was in charge of six other Recovery Agents, and I really did not do a lot of field work. Somehow I got the nickname "Major Case"; probably because the only cases that I went into the field on were major cases like very high dollar bonds, or cases with serious charges, or cases where the fugitive had a violent background. I worked at this Bail Bonds Company for about a year, until I had enough money to start up my own business again. I remember the owner of that Bail Bonds Company well, because he taught me a lot about business; he was a great man in my book.
I was back in business again, a little smarter about business, and a little better at managing people. One of the first cases I got when I went back to work was a $75,000.00 bond in a small town, where this defendant just seemed to disappear from. The Bondsman said he hired several "Bounty Hunters", and two private investigators and none of them could find him. I asked for 25% of the bond, and the Bail Bondsman agreed to that, and gave me a credit card and some cash for expenses. In three weeks I had their fugitive safely back in North Carolina, by way of New Haven, CT. where I found him and had David Schultz grab him for me. I did not feel like I was any better than anyone else at what I chose to do, but my clients seemed to think I would "walk on water". Finding fugitives just seemed easy for me, it was hard work but I almost never "missed". Here is a well overlooked truth about the Fugitive Recovery Business, apprehending a fugitive is not hard, any well trained chimpanzee can do that and if you throw enough S.W.A.T. Gear on him, he is a sure bet! It is locating the fugitive that is the hard work. It can take hours on the phone, hours in the field interviewing people, mind numbing hours reading through and researching documents, and months of waiting, before you locate your fugitive. It requires good note taking, excellent organizational skills, a great memory, and a phenomenal amount of patience. Those successful skip tracers, respect them because it takes real skill at being able to skip trace someone that does not want to be found.
I wanted a change of scenery, so I moved to Norfolk, Va., in 1995 and I loved it there. That is where I met and partnered with Norman Jennings. It is hard to find much about Norman Jenning on the Internet, because almost everything he did from when he was a young man was classified, from his time in Marine Forced Recon in Vietnam, to his work with AirScan, But that was where I really went to school, was when Norman Jennings and I worked together, he taught me so much, just by the way he worked and the example he set. Norman Jennings is still alive and I talk to him every now and then. I NEVER had a better partner than Norman Jennings.
From here I traveled around, I also worked "in-house" for a few Bail Bonds Companies. I ran a team of six agents at one time, and was on a television show called "Bounty Hunters". I liked what I did, because I was good at what I did. But back then things were simple. You did not have Facebook, and you did not have Twitter and all of the other Social Media Sites. You looked at your job as the work you did to support yourself and your family. Nobody in the business really wanted to be a celebrity, we all just wanted to apprehend fugitives. You spent your time on the street doing your job like some people spend their time in a factory doing their job. You didn't brag about what you did, as a matter of fact rarely did you want anyone to know what you did for a living. You did not dress up in S.W.A.T. Styled clothing and gear to play out your childhood fantasies, you dressed in jeans and a tee shirt and knew how to blend in where you were working, your tools stayed hidden until it was necessary to bring them out, and your fugitive never knew who you were until after you had him or her in handcuffs. That is the way we worked, and IT WORKED! We did not want fame, we wanted fortune! You told us we did a good job by paying us. We understood that "almost" did not count at all, it was all about results. And we did our work for the right reason, COLD, HARD CASH! We understood that our job was not personal, we did not like or dislike the people we were apprehending, we were indifferent and unbiased; what we cared about was the money, and that kept us from getting personally involved. We understood that tempers and emotions made you make mistakes, that is why we kept those things in check. We knew if we got mad, lost our temper, or got emotional, the chance of success in finding our fugitives went down. Did we step over the line now and then? Sure! Absolutely! But we never spoke of it, and we always made the decision to do so based on if the fugitive was dangerous enough to risk it, and we balanced that with whether or not what we were doing would cause anyone to get hurt, and if there was even a 1% possibility of anyone getting hurt, we did not cross that line. Not because we were good and decent people (although I'd like to think that we were), but because we were professionals and we made CALCULATED DECISIONS!
Nowadays, it just seems that Fugitive Recovery Work is not about results, it is about who can brag the loudest on Facebook. Who's "war story" tops everyone else's "war story". It is the reality television show, that back in my day would have scared the hell out of a real Recovery Agent; but nowadays everyone wants to be on. And most of what is out there now, could not have done the job we did back when I started. The work would have been too hard, the hours too long, and they would not have had a platform to brag from, meaning they could not get the attention that they so desperately have to have these days. Most of what is out there now is just a bunch of publicity seeking, blow hards. Most of what is out there now would not last 10 seconds in the Bronx, New York where a partner and I snatched a man right off of the street in broad daylight that was wanted out of North Carolina. Don't get me wrong, there are some really good, "real deal" Recovery Agents out there these days, some "old timers" that are true professionals, you just wont find them on Face Book bragging about their exploits every day or on Twitter tweeting about the latest local bond jumper they picked up.
I know one thing. I learned a lot from my days as a Fugitive Recovery Agent. What I learned in those days that I did Fugitive Recovery Work has paid off, it has helped me immensely in my Private Investigation Business that I have had for about fifteen years now. I learned how to find a person who did not want to be found, and I am one of the best at it because I have done it for so long. I learned how to communicate with people, which is one of the reasons that I am still here after having diffused many volatile situations. There are few people as good at finding someone as I am, if I am so motivated. I took a way a lot of skills from my time doing Fugitive Recovery Work, and I still consult a little. But now I have a comfortable Private Investigation Agency where I make pretty good money, and I don't work too hard. Most of the people that I worked with a long time ago, what we call "old timers", have moved on to more stable jobs and are trying to retire.
Well, that is a little about me. The next blog post will dive into some current event issues. I am going to give my opinion on "Modern Fugitive Recovery" and some of the "heros" in the "Modern Fugitive Recovery Business"...
Ricky B, Gurley