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Knowledge of emergencies allowed with new system

By By the Advocate Editorial Board
Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:14 a.m.


Scanners have aided the media for quite a long time, now. With the onset of scanner digitalization, analog scanners are becoming ever more useless. Eventually, anyone with analog scanners will not pick up any emergency signals.

The FCC is slowly making analog scanners obsolete and forcing the rebanding of signals across the country. It's a matter of time before digital scanner systems will be required.

We were concerned because we, like all newspapers, use the scanners to inform the public about breaking news and public safety issues.

Luckily, we have police and fire departments that realize the need for sharing the signals. These emergency personnel have the option to shut out all media but have opted to help us inform the public for public safety reasons.

"We recognize that local media outlets with active newsrooms monitor police and fire channels to learn about breaking news, fires and traffic issues," Victoria Police Chief Bruce Ure said.

"Our local media often provide an invaluable public service in getting critical message out to our citizens," he added.

"We recognize that we can maintain our commitment to police officer safety and balance it with allowing our media partners access to our new radio system," Ure said. "We will not allow the radio transmissions out to the general public because we know, by past experience, that criminals use this information on a daily basis."

We applaud Chief Ure's decision and Fire Chief Vance Riley's to allow media access to the signals.

And we understand that the scanner system needed to be changed. The outdated analog system being retired was more than 10 years old, and some of its integral parts are no longer made.

"We discovered that our system had several critical electrical components that were no longer available. A hardware malfunction could have had a disastrous effect for our law enforcement and firefighters trying to communicate," he said.

But that isn't the case with the decision to implement a new system now. And it sounds much clearer, covers a greater area and complies with new federal regulations. Ure said it would serve our community for numerous years.

We must add that the media takes great care to work with law enforcement to not compromise investigations. We want our emergency personnel to be as safe as possible.

"Even without our added encryption, the new digital format makes it impossible for traditional scanners to listen in. Our added encryption ensures that down the road as technology advances and scanners are developed, our system will still be secure from criminals listening in. It is absolutely disconcerting the number of criminals that we found listening to our officers," he said.

Again, we thank our emergency personnel for access to the new system. This is a value to public safety, and we consider media access a serious element in ensuring safety for all.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.

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