Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Hiring Private Eyes to Spy on Kids

You know things are bad when parents don't communicate with their children about serious social issues like alcohol, drugs and sex, and resort to hiring private detectives to spy on their kids.

That's what's happening in Hong Kong these days with moms and dads who are suspicious of their children who may be involved in drugs or trading sexual favours for money.

Global Investigation and Security Consultancy's Philic Man says she more often than not has the evidence some young people are up to no good.

Last year her company handled 298 investigations into children, a 68 percent jump from the 177 cases in 2010.

In 155 of last year's cases, the kids were confirmed to be involved in compensated dating (basically arranged prostitution), a rise of 121 percent.

Another 120 cases involved drugs, up 34 percent.

Only 23 of the cases turned out to be false alarms.

From April to December last year, police arrested 43 young people involved in compensated dating, but the number has dropped to four in the first five months of this year. Meanwhile the Central Registry of Drug Abuse reported 2,006 drug abusers under the age of 21 last year, a drop from 2,811 in 2010.

"Children are more careful now... they carry out these activities at home or in a rented room. So they become more 'invisible' and its harder for police to catch them," Man said.

She said most clients were anxious parents who had problems communicating with their children.

"We are not social workers or those who fight on paper only," she said. "We stalk, monitor and install devices to look after their children, to prevent them from straying."

Man helped a middle-class couple bust their 16-year-old daughter, a student at an international school, who took drugs at a yacht party.

The detective also found twin 13-year-old sisters from a low-income family involved in compensated dating last summer.

In most cases, Man says, the children did not know they were being spied on and many will never know how they were caught. Man suggests to her clients that they not disclose the evidence to their children and instead seek help from social workers or psychologists who also work in her company. In more serious drug abuse cases, she refers them to rehabilitation centres.

With summer coming up, Man expects to be busier with young people with more time on their hands to party.

Meanwhile social worker Lam Yeung-chu of the Society of Rehabilitation and Crime Prevention doesn't think parents hiring private detectives is a good idea as it could damage the relationship between parents and children if they ever found out.

"Before they hired detectives, parents should look back and think if there is anything they can do to improve themselves. It is always a bilateral problem," she said.

To some degree this new development is not surprising as most parents are busy working full time and develop guilt complexes of not spending enough time with their children and try to compensate through money or material goods. Others have no idea how to develop good communication channels with their children and resort stiff punishment without any kind of productive discussion.

At the same time parents here are caught in the trap of having to work harder and longer hours just to provide for their children and so they cannot be there for their offspring all the time.

And so private detectives like Man are going to continue to be busy, for the most part confirming parents' worst fears for a while yet.

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