NYC Plans to Block Journalists and Public from Scanners

( – The New York Police Department’s (NYPD’s) radio channels have been open to scanners for over 90 years, but a new upgrade will soon block access to everyone but the officers on duty. The department insists the $500 million upgrade will improve security and the system’s reliability. Critics say the move will slash transparency and delay reporters’ access to vital information.

The New York Times reports that the department started working with the new system this past summer, and some frequencies are already encrypted. The NYPD expects to have all of its communications included within the next five years. Chief Ruben Beltran, who has been with the department for 38 years, claimed the old system was too easy to disrupt, leaving an easy opening for pranksters to tie up the official airwaves.

New York journalists, many of whom have relied on police scanners to find breaking stories or snap timely photographs, aren’t happy about the news. Hobbyists, who like to stay informed on police activity as it happens, are just as dismayed. The executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project in New York, Albert Fox Cahn, called the decision to close off their communications to the people “chilling.” The New York City Council agrees. It sees the importance of maintaining transparency within its police force.

Officials are reportedly working on finding new ways to share time-sensitive information with the public without compromising their investigations, and police have been working with reporters to ensure they’re still getting their daily headlines. Fox 5 New York News states that legislators don’t believe the step is enough. They’re considering passing a law that would force the department to allow news organizations continued access to their transmissions.

Mayor Eric Adams doesn’t see a problem with the encryptions. He noted early into the project that the department needed to ensure the “bad guys,” who also apparently like to listen in on the NYPD’s communications, aren’t able to use the airwaves any longer to stay ahead of the police.

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