Wheeling Police Switch to New Encrypted Starcom21 Radio System for Police Radio Communications


Wheeling Police Department switched to an encrypted talkgroup on the Starcom21 radio system at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Previously Wheeling Police Department operated on a conventional system 800 MHz radio frequency with mobile and portable radios that could be monitored by radio scanners by media and all citizens.

StarCom21 is a statewide public safety trunked radio system in Illinois with the option of encrypted talkgroups or open talkgroups. Owned and operated by Motorola Solutions, the State of Illinois is a major partner in the Starcom21 system, which is used by all Illinois State Police posts as well as the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (ISTHA) Maintenance and Police divisions.

Northwest Central Dispatch for Arlington Heights and neighboring suburbs switched to Starcom21 in June 2013. All police main dispatch channels are encrypted, which means outsiders cannot monitor public safety communications involving the police.

Wheeling Police Department runs an efficient 9-1-1 dispatch center with computer links with the State of Illinois and National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer systems. The center has the ability to communicate with the in-car mobile data computer terminals in police vehicles. The computer also allows communication with any other computer equipped police department in the country.

The dispatch center also includes monitoring of live Doppler radar images and weather forecasts for advance warning of severe weather conditions. Several security cameras around the Village of Wheeling can also be monitored from the dispatch center.

Wheeling Fire Department is dispatched from RED Center — a separate dispatch facility that specializes in fire department and paramedic communications.

Des Plaines Police Department, which was already enabled on the Starcom21 system began dispatch out of the Wheeling dispatch center in 2015. The Wheeling dispatch center is seeking other communities that may want to join the center.

Frequency 857.48750 MHz Now Defunct
On Wednesday May 30, 2017, the change in status of Wheeling Police Department’s radio system was not yet published in the leading database of public safety radio frequencies, communication networks and talkgroups — radioreference.com


Cardinal Note: As of May 30, 2017 — up to and including the date of this article — police incidents related to the above police agency are not reported in real time or within a prompt time period. Police protecting their realm of investigation and police activity, have chosen to use secret military-grade encrypted radios to withhold their police communications, which were previously open to the public and news media via monitoring of public safety scanning radios — with no known negative results locally.

The delayed knowledge or entirely blacked out knowledge resulting from encrypted police communications may protect certain police operations and investigations, but it also puts the public at risk in situations such as when armed and dangerous offenders are at large and when other similar situations occur, such as when desperate offenders of property crimes are eluding police. In other cases, the delayed or blacked out information inhibits or prohibits the possibility of the public providing early witness accounts before a criminal trail goes cold. Citizens are much more likely to recognize or recall suspicious or criminal activity if they are aware of the criminal incident within minutes or hours of its occurrence. The most serious incident involving dire results would be a trail that is allowed to go cold in the case of child abduction.

The lack of real time information from public police dispatch also weakens an effective neighborhood watch program mostly working to prevent property loss, but also working to prevent possible violent crimes.

Lack of real time information from police dispatch also delays public awareness or eliminates public awareness of general hazards and traffic or other situations in every day living in an otherwise economically thriving community.

Police have alternate ways to transmit tactical, operational or investigative information, while still keeping their main public dispatch channels open for the best balance of public safety and police safety.

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