CRIME

Poll: Should the public be allowed to monitor police scanners?

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Some residents and the media use police scanners to listen to what is happening in the area. But starting Thursday, no one will be able to monitor D.C. police radios.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier says the shift in policy is designed to protect officers from criminals who are listening to the scanners as well.

Scanners monitor D.C. police radios to get information about what is happening on city streets, from shootings to robberies or traffic accidents. News outlets like Metro Traffic get vital information from the scanners.

"It is really sometimes the inkling that we get that there is an issue,” Metro Traffic’s Director of Operations Jim Russ said.

Starting Thursday, D.C. police will encrypt all of their radio communications, rendering the scanners useless.

Chief Lanier points to recent smart phone technology that allows anyone to scan officers’ radio transmissions. Yes, there's an app for that.

Users will need a special code to listen and there currently is no equipment that can monitor encrypted police communications. The police union expressed its own concerns about the switch, saying neighboring police departments will also be blocked from accessing information.

Lanier says D.C. encryption codes will be shared with adjacent police departments.

Metro Traffic’s Russ says they don't rely solely on scanners, also using traffic cameras and calls from drivers.

Lanier urged residents to sign up for D.C. police alert, a text messaging system about crimes near you. Residents can sign up online to receive alerts to their cell phones or via email. Unlike the scanners, there's a 10 minute delay.

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