Significant changes as FBI criminal referrals drop

Shift in focus seen in FBI as bureau's focus on immigration increases

-- At the Internal Revenue Service, the 1987 referral figure was 3,300. Now it's 2,600.

The agencies with declines say that it takes time to conduct complex criminal investigations in the Internet age against technically sophisticated targets.

A tax investigation takes an average of 507 days, and "we've been tackling a higher proportion of cases that take longer," says Victor Song, the IRS deputy chief for criminal investigations.

The anthrax attacks of 2001 prompted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to strengthen its focus in the security arena, but "we have not shifted resources" away from other investigations, said Douglas Bem, a spokesman for the service.

"Many of our cases are prosecuted at the state and local level when it's more appropriate rather than through the federal judicial system," said Bem. "We work at all levels, not only with U.S. attorneys."

Investigations involving cyber crimes, especially network intrusions, are much more complex than the investigations of 20 years ago and cases are often global in scope and tend to be longer running, says Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan.


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