Feb 14

Jamming Houston Police

This week, a man was arrested on the charge of interfering with police communications here in Houston.

As someone who spent seven years around the newspaper business, I spent time in the newsrooms of a couple of newspapers in Kansas. The one thing that was always present in those newsrooms was a police scanner, usually calling out officers, paramedics and fire fighters to handle citizens in need.

I was hooked, and personally enjoy listening to the scanner more than other forms of entertainment. It is, in fact, the ultimate reality show. Granted, these days much of the routine stuff is now handled electronically via computers in the vehicles, there is still much to be heard. In fact, as I write this I am listening to several Houston Police channels, as well as Houston Fire.

Houston has previously reported that the system that is being used is old. This in itself makes it prone to interference. Houston needs to upgrade the system, but not without much forethought and planning. Other cities were quick to convert, and end up with difficulties and incompatibilities. Others end up with huge gaps in the system, putting the people who swore to protect and to serve in jeopardy themselves.
The improper use of radio equipment by the foul-mouthed practical joker is not just a local offense, but will likely have him facing federal charges as well.  The Federal Communications Commission does not take interference lightly.

Let’s just hope that this event does not force them down the road of a system that can’t be monitored by those who wish to monitor it – much like what San Antonio has done.

Being able to talk amongst user groups is a must in this post 9/11 world, and the city needs to stick to a system that ultimately will talk to other agencies in the area, including Metro, Harris County, Galveston County and Fort Bend County.

Only time will tell if Houston will be able to address the citywide communications issue.

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