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

Lynch_Christopher

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Database Admin
Joined
May 28, 2006
Messages
765
Location
Bethpage, NY
#1
Down a quiet, leafy street in Takoma Park lives a man in a white house 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.”
Something else that didn’t sound very good: the garbled noise coming from one scanner, obscuring D.C. police chatter. To Henney it sounded like death — not the death caused by crime or traffic accidents, but the demise of a passion.

Across the United States, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people like Henney who listen to official communications on radio signals, sifting through a morass of chatter for interesting news. Some pester crime reporters with tips. Others, such as Henney, showcase the hard-won news items — like gem hunters would a stone — on their social media feeds. But soon, Henney fears, all of that may end. And what will become of the scanner enthusiasts when there’s nothing left to scan?
https://www.washingtonpost.com/loca...1c95106d96a_story.html?utm_term=.2b27feadfc94
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2002
Messages
1,016
#2
Who will police the police when you or anyone cannot monitor their activities?

Dont get me wrong I am all for encryption for items like SWAT and surveillance but the day to day routine calls should be open to public 'monitoring'. Being able to know what the department is doing, their response times and yes activity in your neighbourhood is your 'right' as the tax payer who is funding the department. I hear the argument of criminals will use this to circumvent police activities . This has a simple solution pass a local bylaw anyone found with a 'monitor' and engaged in illegal activities will face a fine of $10,000.
 
Joined
Dec 11, 2016
Messages
139
Location
Lancaster County PA
#3
The good old days are gone. DMR of trash haulers, factory workers, and other occupations are the future. All it takes is a few on a county council to vote encryption and say goodbye to monitoring. Even the hospitals in my county are encrypted. Some will argue that scanning is still good and has a future. Those people tend to be from counties where encryption has not taken hold. YET! Air? Trains? Some Military? It doesn't fill the void for me. A recently purchased used 436 from these classifieds has only emboldened my opinion. Great if you can satisfy your hunger with your local current scanning desires. I am jealous.
 
Joined
Jan 14, 2007
Messages
1,234
Location
SW Mo
#6
Oh and don't wait for the press to join the freedom of information fight. It is only my opinion, but I would wager that my local press was indeed granted the encryption codes to keep them quiet.
I would think they would want to make it just as hard for the press to hear radio traffic as the public. At least then they would have to go through the hoops of the sunshine law to get access to the recordings.
 

safetypro79

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Joined
Jan 24, 2005
Messages
231
Location
Boise, Idaho
#7
LE and some FD/EMS have justified encrypted comms as part of first responder safety. I tend to agree, way too many nut jobs and wannabes out there.

my hometown Anchorage AK all PS comms went totally encrypted last year. AST was encrypted for a few years, and like the trend here in SW Idaho Canyon County LE ( so far) went encrypted in 2015 mostly due to high gang activity and gang members tendency to monitor LE. Here in Ada county we (so far) have only about 3 LE channels none encrypted out of many, just dispatch and routine traffic comms. Everything else on encrypted channels and so far from little I hear it has not impacted scanner life as we know it. Even the one time great hobby of international stations SW listening is pertty much gone, there are numerous HF broadcast stations but most Amateur traffic.

Look at Seattle WA when they went to 800 trunking years ago the offered the news media ( at their cost) the option to program a Motorola portables for the PD fregs ( no tx of course) at the time that was a high step for transparency not sure what they do now.

I really don’t see the public making any progress to change the encrypted comms. As we all see on the national news when breaking incidents the upper right hand corner streaming Broadcastfy comms. I know it adds to the media drama but really makes the folks in charge of comms think again about open comms.
 
Joined
Feb 6, 2007
Messages
5,842
Location
175 DME, HEC 358° Radial
#11
ZZ, Partly true, but who's gonna convene the Grand Jury if no-one reports it because no one can hear it?
Hear what?

If the police abuse their powers, do you really think the usable evidence would be what's on the radio? It's going to come to peoples attention some other way.

Anything that happens on the radio that ends up in any sort of legal action will come VB is logged recordings with a carefully documented chain of custody.
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2008
Messages
2,741
Location
Cobb County, GA Stadium Crime Zone
#12
I am glad at least a majority of our public services here still use analog. I wonder if a lot of this encryption and transition to digital mode is industry driven and promoted.
For how long? All the panic over LMR encryption will be moot.
FirstNET is 100 percent natively encrypted (AES-256) from end to end, LTE, and sole source and no denying it, LMR will be dwarfed by First NET and other LTE/5G networks. A 25 year contract. Ponder that one. LMR vendors are in a "last call at the bar" mode pumping and dumping what will be soon "deprecated" technology. Then what?
 
Joined
Mar 7, 2002
Messages
2,529
Location
New Orleans region
#13
I am glad at least a majority of our public services here still use analog. I wonder if a lot of this encryption and transition to digital mode is industry driven and promoted.
If you have the opportunity to sit in on a presentation by Motorola or one of the other major radio vendors, you will get an earfull of why the agency needs to encrypt all their communications. It costs a bunch to add encryption to a whole radio system. Not only are the mobiles and portables have to have the encryption added, but each dispatch radio console needs the encryption added to it also. The reason the sales force works so hard to get the system encrypted is it pads their commission a whole bunch.

It's generally not originally the idea of the agencies until they hear the pitch as to why encryption is needed. Then it's like leading a kid to the candy store. The agencies get sold a bill of goods. Then when one agency in a region encrypts, it's like playing Dominoes. All the other agencies get sold a bill of goods that they need it in order to be able to communicate with their adjacent agencies.

The sales force of the radio vendors come out of those meetings drooling like a dog waiting to be given a bone. Both know they will get what they are asking for. In the case of the sales force, it's a fat check in the bank at the expense of the poor tax payers.

I have been in this field for many years and once the encryption starts, there is almost no stopping it in a region. It's like getting a cold in the winter time. One person comes into work with a cold and before the week is over, every one in the office ends up with the same cold.
 
Joined
Nov 18, 2017
Messages
354
Location
Phx, AZ
#14
I feel like this holds true more so in urban areas. In the mountains of Arizona, everything is still mostly conventional VHF, and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future. The Phoenix metro area however, is mostly on Phase I systems, moving to Phase II. Not everything is encrypted, there is still plenty to listen to, but overall I agree that the hobby is changing. Enjoy it while we still can!
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2008
Messages
2,741
Location
Cobb County, GA Stadium Crime Zone
#15
It costs a bunch to add encryption to a whole radio system. Not only are the mobiles and portables have to have the encryption added, but each dispatch radio console needs the encryption added to it also. The reason the sales force works so hard to get the system encrypted is it pads their commission a whole bunch.
False. All P-25 subscriber radios have encryption these days as "standard fare". MSI, Harris, EFJ/Kenwood and Tait all offer software based crypto, either AES-256 or DES, single key, for free or low cost per subscriber. No fancy keyloading required. Keys and CKRs loaded via programming software. Consoles, true, are another story, but the cost is low compared to other add-ons like ISSI, logging recorders, CAD interfaces, etc. Encryption isn't a huge add on like it was 20 years ago. Sales people aren't pushing it, customers want it.
 

captncarp

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Joined
Jul 25, 2005
Messages
367
Location
North River, NY. USA
#16
False. All P-25 subscriber radios have encryption these days as "standard fare". MSI, Harris, EFJ/Kenwood and Tait all offer software based crypto, either AES-256 or DES, single key, for free or low cost per subscriber. No fancy keyloading required. Keys and CKRs loaded via programming software. Consoles, true, are another story, but the cost is low compared to other add-ons like ISSI, logging recorders, CAD interfaces, etc. Encryption isn't a huge add on like it was 20 years ago. Sales people aren't pushing it, customers want it.
 

allend

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Joined
Feb 1, 2012
Messages
867
Location
Long Beach, CA
#18
Everybody can argue back and forth about why counties and cities use encryption and what's driving it and who is using or not, but the bottom line is that this hobby has gone downhill and in the past 5 years its taken a nose dive and the nose went southbound and never will return.

All forms of communication in time will all be IP based. Look at what's happening with television now. There is going to be no more cable companies and satellite companies. Everything will be pipped in via high speed internet. I do not use cable company for TV or Direc TV anymore. I use Beast TV. I get all HD 2500 channels with every channel from here to the moon and nobody is telling me I can't have this channel or you do not live in this market so you can't get this channel.

All of these public safety agencies will all be tied together via IP based internet MPLS circuits and be tied together for interops. Its just the way we are headed. Encryption has completely plagued Florida and California now and all of these states will eventually catch up and drink the Kool Aid.

ITS JUST A MATTER OF TIME when the rest keep catching up. Even though these systems are using LMR and are in the clear when the system went online eventually will close security gaps and slowly lock stuff down when they get reasons to.

Look at LAS Vegas as a big prime example of what happened to a brand new Motorola P25 Phase II TDMA system what was in the clear when it went online a few years ago and now everything went encrypted. So if you think you are in the clear for good you are wrong.

I am completely against encryption and everybody on this site knows I hate but I am only 1 person and I will never get to change what is killing our hobby and it will be gone. Nobody is going to buy scanner radios to listen to DMR business and NXDN business radios. The main reason people bought scanners were for the raw real live thrill of hearing PD and Fire and Aircomm's for air craft.

And down the road people that are coming up in the world and being born are not going to buy scanner radios. It's an old novelty to us older generation when things were open and in the clear for pure thrill and enjoyment and the majority of us kept it under the radar. We did not flaunt our radios out in public like a wacker is following around the PD or the FD. Then the owner of broadcastify got this brilliant idea to stream to the world and completely kill the industry since there was personal money gain for him. Thanks We just knew it was the right thing to do and keep our hobby underground.

How can you justify buying scanner radios at 700.00 a pop to listen to DMR and NXDN apartment complexes and taxi cabs and private business. Why? No enjoyment but this is where Uniden and Whistler think they see the light at the end of the tunnel. Are we sure they do not live on Mars or Venus? The writing is plastered all over the wall people.
 

thunderr10

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Joined
Feb 14, 2013
Messages
4
#19
Hear what?

If the police abuse their powers, do you really think the usable evidence would be what's on the radio? It's going to come to peoples attention some other way.

Anything that happens on the radio that ends up in any sort of legal action will come VB is logged recordings with a carefully documented chain of custody.
99% of the police don't tell on other police. Why are you so against the tax paying people seeing how their money is spent?
 
Joined
Feb 6, 2007
Messages
5,842
Location
175 DME, HEC 358° Radial
#20
99% of the police don't tell on other police. Why are you so against the tax paying people seeing how their money is spent?
I'm not. I'm telling it like it is.

The tax payers have a right to see where their money goes, but there isn't an inherent right to eavesdrop on radio communication that isn't intended for the public. The argument that it's necessary to have oversight of the police is false. The mechanism for taxpayer oversight is via the grand jury. That's what it's for. That's what they do.

The relatively short time in American history that hobbyists have had access to scanners had not changed the law, the Constitution, or any charters that form any local governments.
 
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