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Hagerstown Police Encrypt their Radio System

The Hagerstown Police Department no longer communicates "in the clear" over scanners to protect the public and officers.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Now the Hagerstown Police Department just fully encrypted its radio system, meaning if you're listening to a scanner now, you won't hear police communications. However, you can still hear the Fire Department and the ambulance service.

"If there's a major accident that's being dispatched that may be affecting your route of travel, you can still hear all of that communication. If there's a serious injury or an assault that takes place in the city that the police would be responding to, we'll always be sending an ambulance to that call for service," said Chief Mark Holtzman with the Hagerstown Police Department.

Police say some criminals were using mobile police scanners to their advantage, trying to out-smart officers. Anyone with a smartphone can download a police scanner app.

Hagerstown Police say some criminals would listen in to tell if police were coming, and if they had backup or not. Chief Holtzman says encrypted radios gives police a better sense of security; especially because these scanners seemed to be as much of a tool for suspects as they are for officers.

"A police officer goes to pull over a suspect, and that suspect may be armed, and it's giving the bad guy a tip: that we've spotted them and we're about to pull them over," said Chief Holtzman.

The Chief says there have been several incidents where the public used scanners at the scene of noise violation or drug complaint calls.

"By the time we arrive the party's broken down, everybody's gone, we knew they had a scanner. What's happening is that's becoming every call for service now: They know the police are coming, and it's affecting our ability to enforce the law," said Chief Holtzman.

Washington County Emergency Services and Fire Department will continue to communicate unencrypted, or "In the clear."

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