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Detective no Sam Spade, but close

by: ELLEN SPITALERI OC private detective Scott Castleman stands beside a statue of Sam Spade, the fictional gumshoe invented by writer Dashiell Hammett and made famous by actor Humphrey Bogart.

(Editor's note: This is the first in a series of stories about 'People at Work,' focusing on people with interesting or unusual jobs.)

He doesn't wear a trench coat and trilby hat, and gorgeous blonde women don't come to his office seeking help, but Scott Castleman is a private detective nonetheless.

The year 2011 marks his 10th year in business in downtown Oregon City, where his company, Corporate Crime Control, offers a variety of services, including surveillance, criminal cases, protective services and crime suppression.

This time of the year he adds an additional specialty to the mix: protest protection.

'The Portland protesters seem to be more active during the nicer Oregon months,' Castleman said, noting that he is a licensed private detective, with both national and international certifications.

International experience

Castleman said he is largely 'self-taught to a degree,' but noted that he's taken extensive courses in self-defense, non-violence studies, advanced executive protection and more.

Because he has had training from private security contractors, including the one formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, Castleman explained that he has become part of a community of people with the same experience.

His contacts have provided him with some memorable cases, including when he was called up to provide security in New Orleans and Pakistan.

'We were the first people on the scene after Hurricane Katrina; we were there before the National Guard, before the humanitarian organizations. We saw the devastation; it looked like something out of 'Mad Max,'' Castleman said.

He and the others called in were originally set to provide protection, safely evacuating people out of hotels and securing the French Quarter, 'but then we switched to a more human role of getting water and supplies from Baton Rouge' to the people who needed them, he said.

As for the experience in Pakistan, Castleman admitted that he was scared for his life. International laws dictated that the team be unarmed and they could not even wear protective body armor, he noted, adding that his team was called in because of violence between tribes.

'We started out doing protective services for a private client, and then we did relief work because of flooding. If you bring in relief for one tribe, you get threats from the other tribe. It was a Taliban area, and we didn't know who was on our side,' he added.

Local services

So, sure, Castleman has had some exotic cases, but his bread and butter comes from working with locals.

He always wanted to be a private investigator, he said. Even growing up in West Linn he dreamed of doing this job, which he likens to 'putting the pieces of a puzzle together.'

Over the years he has learned that 'you don't always solve the puzzle and you can't take cases personally - sometimes you get evidence that shows your client is not guilty, but they get a guilty verdict - it can be difficult.'

Castleman started out in 1992 working in loss prevention, assisting retailers in combating crime when he was only 18 years old.

In 2001, he began his own business, gradually making a shift to dealing with a corporate client base.

'We can take on any private investigation work, including domestic surveillance and criminal defense work, from DUIs to capital murder,' he said.

He and his team can locate and interview witnesses, perform a crime scene analysis and generate reports from their findings. He doesn't advertise and takes pride in his work and the fact that attorneys seek him out.

He works closely with law professionals and the police, he said, noting that detectives on television or in the movies often are shown going out on their own and cutting corners to solve cases.

'Most of what you see on TV is illegal or unethical; most PIs today have a strong sense of morality,' he said.

Specialties

One thing that sets his business apart from others, Castleman said, is that he takes a proactive approach to crime suppression.

'We go in plain clothes onto a property and detain individuals who are doing criminal activity. Once our presence is known, the criminals stay away,' he said.

For example, he took a call from a client who had significant criminal activity in his parking lot near the freeway.

'There was a lot of drug activity, prostitution and assaults. We came in in plain clothes, and within short order, it went from four to five incidents a night to maybe one a month, and for long periods of time, there was no criminal activity at all,' he said.

Although Castleman does not object to being armed, he acknowledges that a 'gun can escalate' a situation, and he would prefer to 'rely on something less lethal.' He has undergone extensive 'de-escalation training,' and likes to 'talk down' an incident whenever possible.

Another of his specialties is working with retirement homes and nursing aide centers in Oregon City and surrounding areas which use his investigative services to identify and detain dishonest employees.

'We place small hidden cameras within the residents' rooms and obtain covert video of dishonest employees who engage in theft from residents. We then interview and prosecute the dishonest employees on behalf of the retirement homes,' he said, adding that most retirement facilities have caring and compassionate employees, but sometimes just one bad apple can cause a huge problem.

'The nice thing about these services is that at the conclusion of our investigation other employees are obviously made aware of our covert investigations and theft dramatically decreases,' Castleman added.

Protective services

Another of his company's specialties is executive protection or protective services.

Castleman might be contacted by a corporation that has plans to terminate an employee and that person has shown threatening behavior, or there might be a violent former employee or a disgruntled spouse in the picture.

'Businesses take this seriously and they are required to take steps - their duty is to protect their employees,' he said.

A second facet of protective services might also revolve around a large conference featuring politicians or visiting dignitaries.

'Like the Secret Service, we can provide all site security and plain-clothes detectives,' Castleman said.

He and his team can make arrests and detain someone when a crime is committed in their presence, he added.

Future

Castleman employs five to six contract investigators, some who work from home and some who share offices with him.

One of them, Tom Gray, is a retired senior special agent and treasury agent who has worked for Castleman for six years.

'(Castleman is) good to work for - he's talented and this is interesting work; there's always a new challenge and each case is different,' Gray said.

As for the future, Castleman said he wants to keep doing what he's doing. He particularly likes having an office on Main Street in Oregon City.

'I moved here to be close to the courthouse; I had the desire to do criminal work and I've made contact with a variety of attorneys,' he said.

Castleman added, 'I really enjoy doing criminal defense work; every day I enjoy coming into work. I like the historical aspect of Oregon City and I like my small office downtown - I know a lot of people.'