Listeners of privately owned scanners may notice their scanners have become quieter.
Shelby County Sheriff Michael Miller announced that his department has switched to a new digital radio system that includes encryptment of the radio system. This will enhance the element of surprise for tracking those not-so-law-abiding citizens.
“In the past, criminals who have hand-held scanners knew where we were,” Miller said. “This is not our intention to cut out the media or other residents with scanners. This new system provides a means for our department to communicate without the criminals knowing where the law enforcement officers are. We believe our officers’ safety comes first.”
The new digital system went into operation April 19. Miller added that buying a digital scanner will not help those who listen to the scanners. The traffic is encrypted and a encryption codes are necessary.
“We simply don’t want the criminal element to know where we’re at,” Miller said. “Unless you’re part of the system, you won’t hear anything. “
He added that listeners will still be able to hear fire and rescue calls, which are not encrypted.
The local department received a TOPS Technology grant of $280,000 in February 2009.
“We were under the impression that it was just an upgrade system on the tower where we were at,” Miller said.
But when the ownership of the tower changed hands, so did the agreement. The department spent a few years searching for a solution. Offers from the Corps of Engineers and the fire department did not work out, and the City of Shelbyville did not want a 180-foot tower in the center of town.
“An anonymous donor made a contribution of almost $100,000 to all the law enforcement in the county,” Miller said. The donor also helped with the sites for the tower and receivers. In Fall 2012 the department got approval for an FCC license and installed temporary repeaters in January.
“We had to put something up temporarily,” said Chris Overback of Global Technical Systems in Effingham. “Things moved quickly since the beginning of the year.”
The digital system is being used in department in neighboring counties such as Fayette and Macon.