And a larger percentage of wiretaps resulted in arrests and convictions.
The nation's courts authorized 1,190 wiretaps last year, down from 1,350 in 1999, according to the office's "2000 Wiretap Report."
Installed wiretaps were in operation for an average of 42 days in 2000, a 15 percent decrease from the year before. But the report said 3,411 persons were arrested as a result of the authorized intercepts in 2000; of those, 736 were convicted that same year.
The 22 percent conviction rate was up from the 15 percent of 1999.
The federal government and 25 states reported using wire, oral or electronic surveillance as an investigative tool in 2000. Federal judges authorized 479 wiretap applications; state judges authorized 711.
Wiretap authorizations in New York, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and Illinois, in that order, accounted for 86 percent of all wiretap orders from state judges. New York alone accounted for 349, far ahead of second-place California's 88.
The six states accounted for 84 percent of the state wiretaps in 1999.
Seventy-five percent of all applications for wiretaps involved drug offenses. The most active area for federal intercepts occurred in the Northern U.S. District of Ohio, mostly driven by a 60-day fraud investigation. The most active area for state intercepts occurred during a 35-day bribery probe in Manhattan.
Telephone wiretaps accounted for 81 percent of intercepts in 2000, or 927 cases. Of those, 691 involved cellular or mobile telephones.
The next most common method, 8 percent or 89 cases, was the electronic intercept, which includes digital display pagers, voice pagers, fax machines and e-mail. Microphones were used in 5 percent, or 52 cases, and a combination of methods was used in 6 percent, or 71 cases.
Of the year 2000 intercepts, only 22 involved encrypted, or coded, information. Law enforcement succeeded in breaking the encryption in all of those cases.
Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
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