Virginia Beach Police looking to encrypt police scanner

Posted at 9:48 PM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-02 22:49:40-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Virginia Beach police are hoping to make a change to better protect officers, but it could make it harder for people to know what's going on in their neighborhood. Police are hoping to encrypt the police scanners to make sure those with bad intentions can't hear police communications.

"We have to be able to communicate quickly, efficiently and accurately," said Lt. Bily Zelms, who is from a family of police officers.

Zelms said with the rapid advancements in technology, especially when it comes to smartphones and the ability to download a scanner app, Virginia Beach police are looking for a change.

"We transmit information. That doesn't mean we can control what someone does on the other end with information," said Lt. Zelms.

The department is asking for nearly $5 million to make the change. In a presentation asking city council for the money, the presenter talked about a situation at a community college in Virginia Beach where an assault was happening.

"The person that was committing that assault actually had the phone app on their phone and was listening to their response and used that app to flee the scene," said the presenter. Another example was criminals listening to the scanner to know when to bring drugs into the city.

" It certainly makes it a little more challenging for us and more challenging for potential victims or people who are calling for our assistance if a suspect in a crime knows what we're going to do," said Lt. Zelms.

But Lt. Zelms says while officer safety and tactics are important, it's not their main reason behind this change. They are concerned about citizens' personal information getting into the wrong hands and being victims of identity theft, among other concerns.

"If you have a scene where something tragic has happened and your home address is given out, your name is given out, all sorts of personal information, how would you feel? So we're looking at this from a citizen standpoint as well as securing that information," said Lt. Zelms.