Parents spend big on investigators to spy on their kids
SYDNEY parents are hiring private detectives to spy on their children and catch them out taking drugs and stealing.
Investigation companies usually occupied with fraud cases and cheating spouses report an increase in inquiries from parents in the eastern suburbs and on the north shore who want children followed when they leave home.
They are shelling out thousands of dollars for undercover detectives to track students from the school gates to shopping centres and parks and gather evidence on who they hang out with and what they get up to.
Owner of Lipstick Investigations David King, whose firm specialises in catching unfaithful husbands and wives, said parents from affluent communities were increasingly becoming clients.
He charges $125 an hour for a minimum of four hours a day - but said desperate mums and dads were happy to pay thousands for a detective to spy on their children for weeks.
"Potential drug-related issues are their main concern, that has increased over the years," Mr King said. "Often it is marijuana, there are some pills and whatever, and the odd bit of ice usage and that's a shame at that age."
In an email to the company one prospective client said: "I'm worried about my son. I have a feeling he's hanging around the wrong people, they use him for money. I need to find out who they are and what they do and where they go."
In another request a woman asked for the agency to track a 15-year-old to find proof he was drinking and taking drugs.
The company said: "Basically, you give us a schedule of hours you want observations carried out and we do the rest. If you can narrow down the times that are most important it shouldn't cost too much at all."
Mr King said he deliberately used younger detectives to tail school-aged children so they would be less likely to be noticed.
They had to be resourceful - in one recent case strapping a hidden camera to a tree branch to watch what teens did in a north shore park when they thought nobody was watching.
They also inspected litter for clues to drug use.
Mr King was hired to tail a private schoolboy from the eastern suburbs who was subsequently found to be inhaling from a balloon.
Mr King believes he was "nanging" - getting a cheap high by inhaling canisters of nitride oxide gas. Video footage was delivered to the parents.
"This was taken after school in Sydney's eastern suburbs, in a largely public place, although it was sheltered from direct passers-by - hence the angle we had for this video footage," Mr King said.
He said parents turned to private eyes as a last resort when police couldn't help.
Parents often said their reason for hiring a private eye was because they didn't know what their kids were up to.
One couple told Bondi Junction-based MySpy investigators: "We are worried and concerned about our son. We want to find out what he is doing, where he is going and with who."
A spokesman for the firm said the subject of the investigation had been missing school and coming home late.
The trend has been noted overseas in the UK, the US, and in China, where mainland parents have been hiring private investigators to keep an eye on students who are studying in other countries.
In Sydney, NSI Global Counter Intelligence chief executive Navid Sobbi said there has been an increase in demand this year.
Parents were concerned about children falling in with the wrong crowd because of social media and messaging apps.
"The higher use of smartphones, people using messaging apps to meet up, we have noticed the increase with all these activities," he said.
"Usually the concern is drugs, violence, criminal activities (and) stealing."
Mr Sobbi said in one case parents concerned about a truanting student found he wasn't taking drugs but was actually addicted to playing video games in internet cafes.
Wayne Carney, of Special Operations Group Australia, told parents one option was to buy backpacks fitted with clandestine GPS trackers.
"You're monitoring their movements," he said. "It is about peace of mind and making sure the safety and wellbeing is taken care of."