Scanner silence: RCMP switching to digital encryption

Ruth Davenport, Metro Halifax
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Federal force has been implementing the change over several years

HALIFAX - There will be less chatter on scanners in parts of Nova Scotia on Tuesday as the RCMP moves to digitally encrypted radio systems in two of its three provincial districts.

The federal force has been implementing the change across Canada for last few years, with a mandate to have the process complete by 2016.

Sgt. Alain Leblanc said Nova Scotia’s Northeast and Southwest Nova districts will make the change Tuesday.

“Encryption ensures transmissions of a sensitive nature … are protected and can only be accessed by authorized parties,” he said.

He said there’s no timeline at this point to make the change in Halifax, which is jointly policed by the Mounties and Halifax Regional Police.

Analog radio transmissions by police and other emergency agencies are routinely monitored on hand-held scanners or via smartphone apps by everyone from journalists to tow-truck drivers to civilian radio buffs.

Leblanc said the audience includes a nefarious element, too.

“Criminals typically have scanners that tell them where we’re at, what we’re doing and of course it may allow them the opportunity to commit a crime, knowing the police may be miles away,” he said.

Although a criminal is just as likely to be alerted to a major operation or event via social media, Leblanc said there’s also a concern for protecting details about ongoing investigations or operations that may be discussed via radio.

The change has been fodder for considerable discussion on online forums such as Radioreference.com, though ultimately most users seem resigned to police radio silence.

“There are other services you can monitor to get a synopsis of what’s going on with the police,” noted one user in response to complaints about the Winnipeg Police Service switching to digital encryption in December. “Fire, EMS, transit, towing, animal services and city work crews are all still in analog.”

 

Organizations: RCMP, Winnipeg Police Service

Geographic location: HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, Canada Southwest Nova

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