Upgraded services at the new police dispatch call centre may result in the encryption of police dispatch calls, barring the public from hearing them. (Wikimedia Commons)

Upgraded services at the new police dispatch call centre may result in the encryption of police dispatch calls, barring the public from hearing them. (Wikimedia Commons)

Emergency dispatch channels to be encrypted by 2020

A switch to digital channels offers more security for first responders, but less public information

The general public will soon lose access to police dispatch calls as channels become encrypted.

Upgraded services at the newly operational South Island 9-1-1/ Police Dispatch Centre include a $24.5 million upgrade to the dispatch equipment. The switch to a new digital system, called P25, by the Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications Incorporated (CREST) promises more reliable technology, better audio clarity and further coverage.

However, with the switch comes a security update which will encrypt emergency dispatch channels, barring the public from listening to police scanners.

READ MORE: Emergency radio communications upgrades will be ready in the new year

“Really the push is privacy and security,” said Gord Horth, general manager of CREST. “I do appreciate it’s going to hamper the media to respond as quickly, but it seems to be where the world is going.”

Fifty users will come on board with the new system, including many branches of the RCMP, which Horth said is the main advocate for encryption.

“The big push is from a federal mandate,” Horth said. “The RCMP is the lead push on this so the challenge is if you want to talk to people, they won’t talk unless it’s encrypted…That means things like fire departments get pulled along.”

ALSO READ: Front-line stress and trauma – are Island first responders prepared?

While emergency responder safety is important, a total blackout puts the public in danger, argues Howie Allan, a police scanner enthusiast who runs the popular Facebook page “WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?”

Allan’s page, with more than 11,000 members, advises the Greater Victoria public about police scanner information, including traffic collisions and missing persons updates.

“That will kill us,” Allan said. “All the news people, everyone is worried about it.”

Allan said he’s aware of the need for police safety, but that freedom of information is also important.

“Ninety-nine per cent of us listening to scanners are helping police,” he said, adding that the group has helped police find missing people. “Plus it’s good to know when an accident occurs so we can avoid the area… Who wants to hear about an accident three days later?”

Horth said CREST will need to wait for all 50 parties to come on board with the new system before encryption will begin, and estimated the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020 to be a likely time frame.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Saanich Police DepartmentVictoria Police Department

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Victoria Police Department headquarters. (Black Press Media file photo)
Investigation launched into man’s death after arrest in Victoria

IIO investigation to determine if police actions or inaction played a role in the man’s death

Capital Regional District Animal Control say an eight-month-old Rottweiler bit a Langford mother and her child near Glen Lake on Nov. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Large dog attacks mother and child in Langford

Mother puts three-year-old on top of car to protect him

Victoria School for Ideal Education at 2820 Belmont Avenue is the second school in Greater Victoria with an active confirmed COVID-19 exposure. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Private school becomes second Greater Victoria school with COVID-19 exposure

Victoria School for Ideal Education follows Lakeview Christian School in Saanich

Brenda Schroeder thought she was reading it wrong when she won $100,000 from a Season’s Greetings Scratch & Win. (Courtesy BCLC)
New home on the agenda after scratch ticket win in Saanich

Victoria woman set to share her $100,000 Season’s Greetings lottery win

Saanich police Chief Constable Scott Green (right) stands with Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers program coordinators Phil Downie and Gill Millam who received a Crime Stoppers International award for their work in 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Saanich Police Department)
People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

More than 70 anglers participated in the bar-fishing demonstration fishery on Sept. 9, 2020 on the Fraser River near Chilliwack. DFO officers ticketed six people and seized four rods. A court date is set for Dec. 1, 2020. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Anglers ticketed in Fraser River demonstration fishery heading to court

Sportfishing groups started a GoFundMe with almost $20K so far for legal defence of six anglers

Most Read