Trends in Organized Crime

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 13–30 | Cite as

Listening to the wire: criteria and techniques for the quantitative analysis of phone intercepts

  • Paolo CampanaEmail author
  • Federico Varese


This paper focuses on phone conversations wiretapped by the police. It discusses issues of validity and reliability of this type of data and it proposes the use of a combination of data analysis techniques. In order to utilize wiretapped conversations in a valid manner, individuals under surveillance must talk freely on the phone, the coverage of the group must be reasonably wide, and a large enough sample of conversations must be available. As for the analysis, we propose the use of a set of techniques: content analysis, correspondence analysis, descriptive network analysis and longitudinal stochastic actor-oriented models. Each technique highlights a different aspect of the criminal network. Systematic analysis of phone conversations can yield valid inferences on the nature and activities of criminal groups and enrich the understanding of the ties within a criminal network. If followed, the procedures discussed here should facilitate comparisons across groups.


Criminal groups Wire tapped conversations Content analysis Social network analysis 



The authors are grateful to John Goldthorpe, Michelle Jackson, Luca Ricolfi, the two anonymous referees and the editor for their valuable comments and suggestions. They are also thankful to Liz David-Barrett and Morag Henderson for their help in editing the text, and their comments. This research was supported by a grant from Leverhulme Trust (F/01 532/B).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Extra Legal Governance Institute, Department of SociologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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