HPD disappears from analog scanners

City police have taken down a 'patch' to old 800 MHz frequency

August 20, 2010|By DON AINES

Maryland State Police, fire and ambulance calls, and most municipal police department calls can still be heard on radio scanners, but those wishing to listen in on Hagerstown Police Department calls will have to update their technology now that the "patch" that allowed simulcasting of calls on the old analog frequencies was taken down last week.

"Citizens were able to hear on a patch between the old and new systems," Capt. Mark Holtzman said.

The patch to the old 800 MHz frequency used by the department had to be discontinued because that frequency will be used by the Washington County Sheriff's Office for data -- not voice -- transmissions, he said.

"If someone has a UHF digital trunk scanner, they can still pick up police calls," said Kevin Lewis, director of Emergency Services for Washington County.

Law enforcement agencies, including Maryland State Police and the Smithsburg, Boonsboro and Hancock police departments, have also gone digital with their radio systems, but their primary dispatching is still simulcast through the Washington County Emergency Communications Center, allowing them to be heard on analog scanners, he said.


Fire and emergency services are still simulcast over the old low-band system, though they have gone digital as well, Lewis said. Many volunteer firefighters still rely on their personal analog receivers to be alerted to calls, and it will take some time before all of those are replaced, he said.

The old 800 MHz band once used by police "will become our mobile data environment for in-car computers," Lewis said.

City police use wireless Internet cards to transfer data for the computers in their vehicles, Holtzman said. That is why the department could turn over its old frequency to the Sheriff's Office for mobile data transmission, he said.

Voice transmissions with sensitive information will go over encrypted channels, he said. Those with digital scanners will be able to pick up Hagerstown Police Department's primary dispatches on Channel 1, Holtzman said.

"The community is a big partner for us, and we didn't want to block out all our channels," Holtzman said.

The department realizes that citizens listening in on monitors can provide useful information about incidents, he said.

The emergency communications center will continue to simulcast on the low-band frequencies as long as possible, Lewis said. At some point down the road, however, analog receivers will go the way of other outdated technologies.

"It's like getting spare parts for the phonograph," he said.

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