EDITORIAL: An $11 Million Military-Grade Encrypted Police Radio System, and Vehicle Burglaries Still Spike in Arlington Heights

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WGN TV Web Desk is reporting that Arlington Heights officials are warning residents to take precautions to protect their vehicles after a spike in vehicle burglaries that occurred this month.

Police report at least 15 car burglaries have been reported so far in August 2013. Items stolen included GPS systems, wallets, Apple iPods and other electronics, laptops, diaper bags, clothing, credit cards, debit cards, identification cards, and cash.

In one vehicle burglary, a thief used a baseball-sized rock to break the passenger’s-side window on a gray 2012 Honda Accord parked at the Metra parking lot near Arlington International Racecourse. WGN incorrectly reported that the vehicle burglary occurred at the downtown Metra lot.

Police arrested Corey T. Jordan, 17, on August 22 in connection with six of the car burglaries. A video of one the burglaries led police to Jordan.

Corey T. Jordan, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was charged with burglary. He posted bail and will next appear in court Sept. 16, 2013.

Police continue to warn residents not to leave valuables such as a GPS devices, laptops, Apple iPods, purses or briefcases in plain view on the car seat, dashboard or floor. Unfortunately people occasionally forget, and some crimes occur in a very small time period, while a vehicle owner leaves the vehicle for only minutes.

Police also suggest using a garage if available. Police also recommend parking in a well-lit area, and to always close windows and lock all car doors.

Vehicle burglary spikes are common this time of year as people are busy with back-to-school activities. People are also more likely to be inside getting ready for school, while other students find it easier to network in school to plan criminal activities.

Arlington Heights police recently switched to a military-grade encrypted police radio system that is supposed to make it impossible for criminals to listen to police activity. Police administrators were hoping the $11 million dollar radio system would make it easier to catch criminals in the act. Police were concerned that smart phone apps allow criminals to listen to police radio communications and avoid capture by getting away before police arrive.

The Cardinal’s position has been that the encrypted radios shut out the larger number of good citizens that are extra eyes and ears for police. The police have effectively shut down an effective part of neighborhood watch — citizens listening to scanners and scanner apps on smart phones. The effective balance is on the side of good people listening to police scanners and scanner apps and being aware of direction of travel of the offenders, and offenders that might be in the area. Now Arlington Heights residents are totally in the dark. If they see a police car in the neighborhood, in real time they have no idea if police are looking for a stray dog or a burglar, a kidnapper, or a murderer.

Additionally, a criminal carrying a smart phone that can listen to police dispatches can effectively be stopped by a call to the police. Once criminals hear the police call, the criminal damage and burglary activities are likely to stop immediately, as they attempt to flee the area. This effectively stops the loss to the victim(s), and with the quick response of Arlington Heights police (once the call is dispatched), there is still a chance police will stop any suspicious character walking, running, or driving away within a few blocks of the scene. With encrypted secret radios, the police administrators have effectively destroyed the good community action and involvement that has been built up in the past decades.

Some recent court rulings have been in favor of giving police the power to search phones. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled Wednesday April 30, 2012 that it is now legal for police to search cell phones without a warrant. The 7th Circuit covers Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Burglars under investigation, known to be using scanner apps, could in turn be tracked by police. Also, with warrants, it might be possible to determine if the burglary was committed while using a smart phone with a scanner app active, while at the scene of a vehicle burglary. That could possibly be a felony.

Another problem that may have caused the spike in crime is our 9-1-1 center. New Northwest Central Dispatch System radios use a technology that has caused communications failures. The actual transmission of the signals are more likely to fail because there are two extra technology layers on the radio system — TDMA and encryption. Reports on the street reveal that the radios have failed more often than the previous system. TDMA is technology that allows time sharing of signals to get high volume of traffic through the system. Unfortunately the sound quality of radios is so poor, that all male voices sound about the same, and all female voices sound about the same — like robots. From a human factors perspective, this makes it very difficult for police officers to work together on an active scene. Imagine working on a hostage situation or a pursuit, and not being able to clarify which officer was communicating. It inhibits their ability to know who is where at a scene. It obstructs their situational awareness at a scene.

The military-grade encryption also adds a layer of technology that can fail and completely disrupt the voice signal. If the key or digital code accompanying a would-be successful voice communication is blocked, the voice communication that would have been sent through on the non-encrypted system can be totally blocked, because the signal is rejected by the receiving radio for not having the correct encryption code.

The new Motorola radios, at a cost of over $3,000 each, have physical problems with volume controls. There is a volume control on the mic at the police officer’s shoulder or firefighter’s shoulder, and there is a volume control on the actual radio. Officers have had trouble with coordinating the volume controls. Several times the volume controls turn the volume down so police officers can’t hear when police calls are dispatched. They’ve had to resort to using their cell phones to make sure they receive their emergency assignments.

The radio system is shared with several northwest suburbs. Schaumburg police officers that were dissatisfied with the voice quality of the radios decided to check if the sound quality and radio reliability would improve without the encryption on. They ran live calls without encryption on for about one day. They found that the sound quality was still lousy, according to a source that did not want to be identified.

These new radio problems started on June 5, 2013 when the police and fire department switched over to the new system. That was less than one year after Northwest Central Dispatch System installed a new Computer-Aided Dispatch System. That system was also immediately plagued with problems, including delayed calls, failure to dispatch calls, and the system’s failure to know what police beat cars or fire/EMS rigs were available.

The Cardinal has early word that it was a frozen computer that failed to give the 9-1-1 operator the proper instructions for escaping from a sinking vehicle. This may be the reason why Henry Laseke was not given the proper instructions to escape his vehicle after he accidentally drove it into a pond at Arlington on the Ponds on Thursday July 25, 2013. The man sank in his Cadillac SRX just minutes before firefighter/paramedics arrived, and drowned. More on the investigation of the handling of this call at a later date. Meanwhile, it has been over one month since Northwest Central Dispatch System reported that they are conducting an internal investigation into the matter. It has also been over one month since Arlington Heights Police Department has said they are conducting their own investigation of the handling of the emergency call.

One can presume that numerous technical problems at the Northwest Central Dispatch System 9-1-1 center are causing at least the occasional delay, or more likely an abnormally high amount of delays, whether the response is to a routine vehicle burglary or a lifesaving emergency.

See also …
WGNtv.com Arlington Heights sees spike in car break-ins

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