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Author Topic: Are police security measures and new technologies killing an American obsession?  (Read 2919 times)

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Last of the scanners: Are police security measures and new technologies killing an American obsession?

In a white house on a quiet, leafy street in Takoma Park, Md., lives a man who listens to nothing but mayhem. He is remarkable not because of his appearance — tall, thin, black hair — but for what he has around him at all times: scanners.

On this day, the scanners of Alan Henney — whose tweets of bedlam are followed by dozens of Washington journalists — were going full blast. Eleven cluttered his coffee table and living room, all tuned to different radio frequencies from across the region. There was the chirp of D.C. Fire and EMS responders. The prattle of dispatch in Prince George’s County. And the broadcast of Montgomery County officials telling of a traffic accident, which, Henney concluded solemnly, “doesn’t sound very good.”

Full article:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/last-of-the-scanners-are-police-security-measures-killing-an-american-obsession/2018/12/28/4e344a62-09f5-11e9-a3f0-71c95106d96a_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.290a35e82b39
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Offline Josh

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One sheriff around here tells his depadees to use digital only when absolutely needed such as sensitive info, and that is over a analog nbfm channel on vhf, he seems to feel the citizen has the right to know what his dept is doing - we could use a lot more guys like him. The rest of the local leos have gone to the statewide apco25. As the ems here is private, they use a analog vhf link to the county dispatcher. It's one thing to go apco25 unencrypted, it's another to go full time encrypted on every tac channel, they must be hiding something, right?

Still scanner stuff to listen to around here at least.
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Offline skeezix

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We have a statewide APCO 25 system here. Most of the talkgroups are unencrypted, but word has it that they're going to be encrypting a lot more.
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Offline Stretchyman

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In the UK there are no 'Public Services' on analog anymore and have not been for prob about 10 years.

TETRA had a massive uptake and similar to mobile phone tech I guess as it's cell based it needs massive investment in the infrastructure.

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Offline redhat

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Here most of the traffic is P25, but in the clear.  There are obviously tactical channels that are encrypted, but for the moment dispatch is in the clear, which I appreciate.  Its nice to know how your taxes are being spent.

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Offline TheRelayStation

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most of the law enforcement vehicles in the US are equipped with MDT's and as such, sensitive information is generally transacted on them.
the countywide 800Mhz trunk system here used for the county police as well as other local government entities is eventually going to transition to P25 phase 2 at 700Mhz (non-encrypted for dispatch) but has not yet completed the full transition due to budget constraints and other issues.
for now, it is the "hybrid" motorola system consisting of 99% analog transmissions with tactical/surveillance units using digital "in the clear".
i sure do miss the "old days" when law enforcement used VHF/UHF repeaters, at least the town that i live in which is not part of the countywide trunk system, still uses VHF/UHF repeaters though their vehicles are equipped with MDT's.
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Offline R4002

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The local (regional) Motorola Type II trunking system here recently turned encryption on for all police talkgroups.  Fire, EMS, interoperability and regionwide talkgroups remain in the clear.  All local public safety is on the trunked system with UHF-FM analog backup for EMS and VHF-FM analog backup for hospital-to-EMS and other interoperability concerns.

The reason given for encrypting all law enforcement was that a task force busted somebody who was using a smartphone "police scanner app" (read: he was streaming the audio from somebody else's scanner, available from a well-known police scanner audio streaming site).    Made the local radio folks here pretty angry as the city I live in produced some of the most fascinating police radio chatter I've ever heard. 

The tactical or "talkaround"talkgroups (of which there are several dozen for the city police department) were unencrypted and the SWAT, narcotics and vice guys used them as their very own "party lines" or chat rooms - some racist, sexist, extremely offensive and also extremely funny stuff was heard.  One could often hear the dispatch talkgroup chatter in the background of these conversations, making it clear that officers would have their car radio on the dispatch channel and their handheld radio on the "talkaround" channel.  Going by how candid the cops were before their communications were encrypted...I wonder how much more is being said now that its encrypted.

TheRelayStation is right about heavy MDT usage too.  There's also a "chat" or instant-message function available on the MDTs used by local police and state police here.  State Police use a Project 25 digital trunking system and only the narcotics and other special talkgroups are encrypted.  Compare that to the state game wardens, who are 100% encrypted.

The state law enforcement agencies here all operate on the statewide VHF Project 25 trunking system but maintain backward-compatibility on 39.540 MHz VHF lowband (analog FM) for communications with local sheriff's offices in rural areas, for car-to-car backup and as a statewide overlay/backup system for dispatch-to-car usage.  When the state upgraded to Project 25 digital trunking they also upgraded the 39 MHz system and they've made it clear they only have plans to maintain/continue to upgrade that system.  Many local agencies maintain patches on their respective trunking systems to the 39.540 MHz channel.  All state police vehicles have a lowband radio that sits on 39.54 in addition to their primary digital VHF radio and MDT.  Best of both worlds, I'd say. 
« Last Edit: January 03, 2019, 1753 UTC by R4002 »
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Offline fpeconsultant

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In the shooting gallery that we call Chicago, they are still using old school 100% un encrypted voice transmissions for city, Crook County police & fire.  Even the leafy green suburbs that surround the gallery still rely on the regular old voice transmissions.
There has been talk here for 15+ years to switch to something new but it never happens.  I guess the guys who sell & maintain the old school radios are still giving the right envelope to the right guy.
So lucky for me I can still listen to the mayhem that engulfs this City every single day.
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Offline Josh

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In the shooting gallery that we call Chicago, they are still using old school 100% un encrypted voice transmissions for city, Crook County police & fire.  Even the leafy green suburbs that surround the gallery still rely on the regular old voice transmissions.
There has been talk here for 15+ years to switch to something new but it never happens.  I guess the guys who sell & maintain the old school radios are still giving the right envelope to the right guy.
So lucky for me I can still listen to the mayhem that engulfs this City every single day.
FPE

Mebbe it's a choice between paying the city pensions or going trunked.
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Offline fpeconsultant

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Mebbe it's a choice between paying the city pensions or going trunked.
Well their priority certainly isn't the former - that can just gets kicked down the road time & time again....  But they found $millions to beautify the riverwalk; which is nice....
Whatever the reason I'm glad they haven't gone trunked!
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Offline Josh

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Amazing a city as large is still not trunked and digital by now. Omaha was still analog uhf for police, fire, and ems, and many of the fedz were still on the 160mhz band in the clear to the mid 2000s. Always fun to listen in on the dea doing stakeouts almost every day, then meeting the dea head after graduating the academy.
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Offline R4002

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The DEA maintain a stand-alone repeater network on the 409 MHz and 418 MHz areas in my city and almost always run unencrypted Project 25 digital voice...there is a move to use the “regionwide” law enforcement talkgroups on the trunking system though.  Cities like Boston and New York are still analog FM in the 450-512 UHF and UHF-T bands so it’s not just Chicago that has stuck with the older-generation gear.  Some NYPD channels are encrypted of course. 

Before the DEA switched to digital voice I could tune a HT to their repeater input frequency...the surveillance traffic is always great to listen to, especially when one of the target houses turns out to be two blocks over.  The DEA vehicles stuck out like sore thumbs - not to mention built white guys with vests with POLICE in yellow letters on their chests behind the wheels of Impalas and Suburans with red lights on the dashboard....

The FPS, DHS and other federal agencies around here are still on VHF 162-174 and UHF 406-420 bands with P25 conventional repeaters, but encryption is the norm. 

I know the Chicago Police scanner stream is one of the most listened to ones in the country.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2019, 1811 UTC by R4002 »
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Offline BoomboxDX

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Scanning basically died when trunking took over. And it's further down the tube with encryption.... Scanner listeners got a bad rap in the 1980's with the analog cell phone thing, and it only went south when they began blocking chunks of spectrum because of that debacle.

Sad, really. I used to be able to hear the local police departments' dispatch feeds and it gave one a glimpse of how tough a job it is to be a cop -- in real time.

Oh well.

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Offline TheRelayStation

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Scanning basically died when trunking took over. And it's further down the tube with encryption.... Scanner listeners got a bad rap in the 1980's with the analog cell phone thing, and it only went south when they began blocking chunks of spectrum because of that debacle.

Sad, really. I used to be able to hear the local police departments' dispatch feeds and it gave one a glimpse of how tough a job it is to be a cop -- in real time.

Oh well.
there can be certain legalities involved when simulcasting the PD over the internet for the masses to listen to.
to make it short, in 2008, my attorney advised me upon written request to me of the county PD where i live, to agree to the request from the county PD to simulcast dispatch only, over the internet, including "sensitive" non-encrypted communications.
i have been simulcasting the county PD over the internet for the last 18 years.
some PD's will take action and others dont seem to care when it comes to their broadcasts being relayed over the internet.
my advice to anyone wishing to do this (simulcast PD over the internet) is to contact an attorney who specializes in the legalities of radio communications before you actually do it, to be on the "safe" side of things.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 1616 UTC by TheRelayStation »
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Offline R4002

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Compared to asking the guy streaming the police audio for "public consumption" - here they just switched encryption on for all law enforcement talkgroups.  A bad guy was caught using a smartphone "police scanner app" and that was that. 

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