Law enforcement officers are listening. More than ever.
State and local authorities received more than 3,100 wiretap approvals from judges last year, an increase of 34% above the number of authorizations the previous year, according to a report released today.
Federal judges, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts report said, approved 1,207 wiretaps, and 1,987 were authorized by state judges. Historical data reveal applications are rarely turned down. Only one application was denied in 2010.
Drug investigations accounted for the majority of wiretap applications, last year. The report said 84% of all wiretaps (2,675) stemmed from drug cases, with homicide and racketeering investigations following. The largest number of state wiretap requests were made in California and in New York.
Authorities reported they encountered encryption during six state wiretaps. But investigators, the report said, still managed to obtain the plain text of the communication.
Wiretaps that were reported as terminated as of December 31 were responsible for more than 4,700 arrests and 800 convictions, the report said. In one case, a federal wiretap in the Northern District of Georgia led to the seizure of more than $3.3 million in cash, 48 kilograms of cocaine and 60 pounds of crystal methamphetamine. A wire in Kentucky led investigators to $4 million and 42 kilos of coke.
Last year, authorities reported that a total of 2,582 arrests and 2,504 convictions arose from wiretaps authorized in previous years.