NOPD to leave dispatch radio channels unencrypted - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

NOPD to leave dispatch radio channels unencrypted

The New Orleans Police Department confirms it will leave its dispatch radio channels unencrypted as it and other local law enforcement agencies transition to a new encrypted radio network.

The non-profit anti-crime group Project NOLA had urged local authorities to leave those dispatch channels open to public monitoring, saying encrypting them would hinder its own efforts to inform the public about ongoing crime situations.  Local news outlets were also concerned about losing their ability to monitor crimefighting efforts through so-called "police scanners".

Friday afternoon, a Project NOLA member posted this message on their Twitter account:

GREAT NEWS! I just got off the phone with Col. Jerry Sneed of NO Homeland Security, who advised that as it currently stands, the NOPD dispatch channels will remain UNENCRYPTED, and that ProjectNOLA will be able to continue being pro-active! Col. Sneed was thankful to ProjectNOLA's many successes, recognizes our importance to the community, and looks forward to our continuing to help provide real-time situational awareness to 1st responders, ER staff members, and citizens. TO ALL WHO HAVE WRITTEN LETTERS AND PLACED PHONE CALLS ON OUR BEHALF, I OFFER A VERY HEARTFELT THANK YOU!

FOX 8 reached out to Col. Sneed for confirmation but we have yet to hear from him.  However, a news inquiry with NOPD drew the following response from the department's public affairs division:

In 2013, the New Orleans Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) region, which includes public safety agencies in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines Parishes, is transitioning to an upgraded, regional public safety radio network that gives the public safety agencies the ability to encrypt channels to enhance first responder safety.

In this transition, the NOPD will continue its long standing policy of allowing public access to normal police dispatch channels. These channels are used to assign NOPD officers to respond to calls for service from residents. They also broadcast officer initiated activities such as traffic stops, investigation of possible drug transactions and business checks.

To better ensure public and officer safety, the NOPD will encrypt radio channels where police tactics to handle potentially dangerous situations are being discussed. These changes are expected to take effect in January 2013.

Additionally, the NOPD in 2012 upgraded its crime mapping software to allow for more frequent updates to its online crime viewer that includes calls for service data for the public. It can be viewed at (http://www.nola.gov/GOVERNMENT/NOPD/Crime-Maps/). In mid-2013, as an initiative of the NOLA FOR LIFE plan, the NOPD will also be making calls for service data available to citizens through the existing City of New Orleans Open Data Portal, at http://data.nola.gov, as raw data that will allow individuals and groups to examine and analyze police responses and interaction throughout the city. It is hoped that the new ease of access to this data will improve transparency and reduce the staff time dedicated to filling public information requests for such data.

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