C.R. "Bob" Brown Sr. remembers what it was like handling private investigations before the existence of computer databases. "We call it BC (Before Computers)," said Brown, jokingly recalling the earliest years of his long career. "When I first started, you had to be street smart. We had to go to the courthouse and buy or find our information."
Now computers with access to volumes of information sit on top of every desk at Brown and Associates, Inc., the oldest and most established investigative firm in Central Florida. The 68 year-old professional has employed as many as 10 professional agents and he has investigated a broad range of cases, including: criminal, missing persons, homicide, fraud, corporate espionage, and domestic issues.
Before the computer ushered in the era of multimedia, TV was changing the landscape for private investigators. As television shows romanticized the business and often gave the public the wrong impression about the work, Brown made appearances on national television shows on a variety of topics, clarifying the role of investigative services and providing audiences of the small screen with legitimate information about the profession. In doing so, he gained the national limelight on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Maury Povich Show, Inside Edition, Hard Copy and A Closer Look, talking about everything from cheating spouses to parents spying on their kids.
Private detective agencies underwent other innovations that professionalized the business. While some television shows were still being broadcasting in black and white, Brown applied for an agency license in 1966. He believes his license No. A000248 is the oldest original-owner agency license in Florida. Older licenses may still exist but none are still held by the original owners. About 1,400 people applied for the licenses but only 700 licenses were granted by Florida because many of the applicants were convicted felons, Brown recalled. Training requirements are also needed for every licensed investigator these days. Brown gained his training as a deputy sheriff for the Orange County Sheriff's Office and working as an officer with the Florida Highway Patrol.
Over the years, Brown has sought to make a positive impact on both sides of the reporter's desk. His work as a journalist provided him with a nose for sniffing out details. Conversely, reporters have notices many of the characteristics that make Brown a one of a kind private investigator. During an interview with a Florida newspaper, the reporter dubbed Brown "The Investigator of Faith" because of his Christian believes and his habit of praying over his food at every meal.
Still, his embracing of technology has kept him in business for all these years as an investigator, and briefly as a retailer. He successfully ran four U-Spy Stores in Central Florida. Nowadays, however, he uses high-tech gadgets for such ventures as his latest one, a new Loss Prevention division within his agency for small and medium sized businesses. For example, GPS tracking devices allow him to track truck deliveries carrying valuable merchandise and surveillances. Many of the services available at his agency also rely on cutting edge technology, including: computer forensics, investigative services, background searches, electronic bug "sweeps" and judgment recovery.
Still, technology can be cold and hard sometimes so Brown brought yet another unique and innovative approach to investigations. A stealth camera may uncover a cheating spouse, but Brown also specializes in the softer art of reconciliation through Christian-based marriage counseling for couples willing to weather their troubles.
"To get people back together, that's the ultimate satisfaction," Brown said.
Brown's work has been immortalized in other forms of media, including novels and a movie for the big screen. His work on a particularly brutal murder of two young boys in Daytona Beach led a screenwriter to complete the story "My Son Is Missing," which is currently in preproduction as a full length feature film. His work on the case inspired the writer Karen Kingsbury to complete the novel, "The Snake and the Spider."
Others have noticed Brown's commitment to professionalizing the business and his inventive approaches to private investigations. He has gained numerous awards, including being named one of the top investigators in the nation by P.I. Magazine. He was awarded the “Florida Certified Investigators of the year” award for 2005. He received the National Association of Investigative Specialist's "Distinguished Service Award," which is considered the "Emmy" of the private investigative industry. He has also received a "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Private Investigators Association of Florida. Brown is also the author of the book: "Investigations - 'Doing It My Way.'"
Whether it is the title of his book or the day-to-day operations of his agency, Brown has done it his way. During his four decades in business, he has continually evolved his investigative agency to meet and in some cases exceed the challenges of improving professional standards and adapting to new technologies.