During my time working with the homeless, it was important to track their history so as to assist them in filing paperwork for state/federal assistance. The majority of the homeless population is not that open to share their past; so a great deal of investigation and trust had to be established.During my in-take interviews, I would use the style of my favorite detective. Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk), the television L.A. homicide detective. I found the best description of Columbo’s style in Wikipedia. Here is an excerpt:
“Columbo most often confirms a criminal's guilt by lulling them into a false sense of security and then setting up circumstances which encourage them, in their newfound hubris, to incriminate themselves. Columbo's signature interrogation technique is to conduct a seemingly innocuous interview, politely conclude it and exit the scene, only to stop in the doorway or return moments later and ask, "Just one more thing..."
That worked so well with people having drug and alcohol struggles. (Works with kids as well) I knew they wanted to talk, but they just needed a moment to collect their thoughts. The "one more thing" (also called the false exit) is always a jarring question regarding an inconsistency in the crime scene, the suspect's alibi, or his explanation of the supposedly-ended interview. The banality of the interview, combined with Columbo's apparent absentmindedness and incompetency, makes the suspect feel as though he or she is beyond the reach of law and thus plays on his or her arrogance. Columbo's "one more thing" catches them off guard and leaves them vulnerable, usually resulting in the suspect accidentally revealing information about their own guilt. Columbo will also often "befriend" a suspect, making them believe that he is investigating another individual and enlisting the suspect's "aid" in gathering information.
It is a unique style that can establish trust, but also, for whatever reason can desire people to talk more than what the subject originally was about. Every time you would think Lt. Columbo missed the obvious clue, he would peel the onion another layer and, although his evidence seemed absurd and weak, he would return to the suspect with ammo that supported his “one more thing” that wrapped the case up very nicely. It made you want to light up a cigar with him as “L.A.s’ Finest” hauled the bad guy/girl off in a ‘black and white' to jail.