Across Virginia, and the country, police scanners are going quiet -- at least for the public.
It used to be a scanner or an internet connection was all you needed to listen in on Richmond City’s police radio traffic. But no more.
This month Richmond joined a growing list of Virginia localities encrypting their radio systems. Virginia Beach is also taking steps to stop the public from listening in.
Roanoke County’s Chief of Police Howard Hall expects his department to make the switch soon, citing safety and privacy.
“If you happen to have a tail light out in your car that you might not even know about and a police officer stops you, there’s a relatively good chance that your name, date of birth, address, maybe even social security number could be broadcast over that air,” says Hall.
Megan Rhyne with the Virginia Coalition for Open Government says it could impact local reporters more than the general public.
“This is coming at a time when there is a lot of interest in police activity and it seems like it’s another avenue to shut down any kind of public oversight,” says Rhyne.
To help keep media informed, Richmond Police have set up a website instead. It updates limited information about calls in almost real time.