Eugene Police to scramble main channel on scanners

EUGENE, Ore. - Eugene police will begin encrypting their main radio communication channel this weekend.

The decision to scramble the main channel was made with officers' safety in mind. Lieutenant Nathan Reynolds, of the Eugene Police Department, believes the move is necessary.

"Through technology available to iPhone and smart phones nowadays, there are applications where criminals can overhear the radio traffic being conducted about them. We're trying to provide the level of safety we need for our officers," he says.

In 2008 Eugene Police transitioned from analog radios to digital systems. At that point they decided to encrypt all of their non-primary frequencies.

Five years later they are adding their main channel to the mix, allowing only media outlets to access their transmissions.

While the move will bar criminals from listening in on police dispatches, local amateur radio enthusiasts will also be unable to monitor law enforcement activity.

Some, like radio amateur operator Matt Dillon, do not believe that encrypting the main channel is beneficial to the police, and may even be a disadvantage for public safety.

"There is already encryption for tactical channels, but the general dispatch channel does not need it from my perspective. [The encryption] reduces the ability of the general public to avoid an area where there may be an activity going on, or to provide additional eyes on the street."

Media outlets can purchase equipment compatible with Eugene police transmissions from their main channel. Members of the public will be able to access police logs on the EPD's website, although not in real-time.