Wary parents hire private eye for kids
Private detectives are traditionally instructed to get evidence of extramarital affairs. But for a growing number of Philic Man Hin-nam's clients, it's not their husbands or wives they want followed, but their children.
Suspicious parents call her in when they fear their offspring are involved with drugs or trading sexual favours for cash.
And more often than not, their fears are justified as Man brings home evidence of privately educated daughters taking drugs at yacht parties, or 13-year-old twin girls engaged in 'compensated dating' to buy designer label clothes.
Man, of Global Investigation and Security Consultancy, said there was a surge in the number of parents paying her to spy on their children.
While official figures suggest drugs and compensated dating offences have decreased, her experience suggests otherwise. Man said her company handled 298 investigations into children last year - a 68 per cent rise from the 177 cases in 2010.
In 155 of last year's cases, children were confirmed to be involved in compensated dating, a rise of 121 per cent. Another 120 cases revealed children were involved with drugs, up 34 per cent.
Only 23 cases were found to have been false alarms.
Police arrested 43 children for compensated dating from April to December last year, compared with four in the first five months this year.
Meanwhile, the Central Registry of Drug Abuse showed that there were 2,006 reported drug abusers under the age of 21 in Hong Kong 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 her clients were mostly anxious parents who were having difficulty communicating with their children - so they turn to her.
'We are not social workers or those who fight on paper only. We stalk, monitor and install devices to look after their children, to prevent them from straying.'
Last year Man helped a pair of middle-class parents bust their 16-year-old daughter, an international school pupil, who took drugs at a yacht party. The detective also found twin 13-year-old sisters from a low-income family, engaged in compensated dating last summer.
Man said she used tailor-made 'secret weapons' that could be installed virtually anywhere in the home or in personal belongings for secret filming and bugging.
She added that in most cases, the children did not know they were being spied on, and many never will know how they were caught. Man asks her clients not to disclose her evidence to their children and instead refers them to social workers or psychologists on her team.
In serious cases of drug abuse, she advises parents to send their children to rehabilitation centres.
A jump in the number of parents seeking her services during the summer vacation is expected, she said, especially with this year's Euro football tournament, which encourages teenagers to hang out in bars.
Social worker Lam Yeung-chu, of the Society of Rehabilitation and Crime Prevention, said she had reservations about hiring detectives as it could damage children's relationships with their parents 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.
The number of child cases Philic Man dealt with last year, a 68 per cent rise on 2010. Cases of compensated dating and drugs both rose