By Adam Pincus
With the application of a wiretap, criminals “literally talk themselves into jail,” Brown said.A report from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts shows that of the 1,710 wiretaps applied for nationwide in 2004, 136 were made by the Queens DA. By comparison there were 24 wiretaps in the other four boroughs combined.Another 1,758 applications for electronic surveillance and physical search of people engaged in espionage or international terrorism against the United States on behalf of a foreign power were made in 2004 to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which does not provide information on the location of its taps.The number of wiretaps in Queens County has been growing, now at its highest level in at least eight years, the reports indicated. In 1997, the DA only requested 14 wiretaps.Brown said his use of wiretaps should not be seen as an infringement on civil liberties, however, due to state court application requirements.”Don't be concerned that we are invading everybody's privacy, because New York state has very strict wiretap laws that require us to show probable cause that a crime is being committed, and that a telephone is being used in the crime,” he said.Brown said his office uses the taps for a variety of investigations, including gambling, loansharking, auto theft and insurance fraud. But by far the largest number of cases is for narcotics, which represented 83 of the 136 applications for wiretaps last year, according to the U.S. Courts. The wiretaps average about $10,000 per tap at a cost of about $200 per day to maintain the wire, said Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for the DA.She attributed the sharp increase in wiretaps to a strong relationship between the DA and law-enforcement agencies such as the Queens Narcotics Division. Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.