A retired Ocala Police Department officer is offering private investigation services to the local community.
Jeff Bairstow gave a presentation on his business, Sentry Service Investigations, during Wednesday’s 1 Million Cups Ocala event in downtown Ocala.
Bairstow is using his nearly 29 years of law enforcement experience to help local residents with investigative matters.
He was born in Ocala but lived for a while in New Orleans before returning to Ocala in 1986. He began working at a local car dealership and used the time before his shifts to attend police recruit school training.
In November 1987, he joined Ocala Police Department as an officer. He worked patrol, K-9, and was a narcotics officer up until his retirement in 2016 at the age of 49.
Still feeling an urge to work and be productive, he decided to start an investigation company, and Sentry was born.
“A lot of people, when they think of private investigations, the first thing that comes to their mind is cheaters,” Bairstow said.
According to Bairstow, around ten percent of Sentry’s cases involve cheating and infidelity investigations. A majority of the cases involve child support matters.
Further describing his line of work, he said, “A lot of what we do is asset searches. If someone’s got a judgment against somebody, we can do some searches to try to find assets to help that person recover some of that judgment. When you sue somebody in court, the judges don’t give you the money, they just say, ‘Okay, here’s a piece of paper saying that you have a judgment against them.’ That’s it.”
Sentry provides a variety of investigative services: background checks, Level 2 Livescan fingerprinting, polygraph services, civil and criminal investigations, insurance fraud, missing person cases, and process serving.
Bairstow said, “We used to always say that defense attorneys worked on the dark side when I was on the police department. So now, we actually go through and review cases for defense attorneys to see if the case is good or if there’s anything that can help out a defendant. Believe it or not, sometimes people do get arrested for something that they didn’t do. It happens. Not much, but it happens.”
Bairstow also highlighted a recent case that involved a missing person. The week before Thanksgiving, an 83-year-old elderly man who needed oxygen was reported missing by the Lady Lake Police Department. Sentry located the man the day before Thanksgiving in Marion County.
“Due to those jurisdictional lines, it’s hard for a detective to cross over into Marion County and leave the city. As a private investigator, we’re licensed throughout the entire state of Florida, so we don’t have jurisdiction issues like law enforcement does,” Bairstow said.
That lack of jurisdiction, according to Bairstow, gives his company an advantage during investigations.