A couple of fellow that are members of a rescue squad in Tazewell County, Virginia have landed themselves in hot water after programming their radios to operate on frequencies they were not authorized to use.
The report from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph states:
“The charges stem from an investigation into the unauthorized use and copying of the sheriff’s office channels on their rescue squad radios. It has since been learned that Baker and Dunford also allegedly programmed the Tazewell Police Department, Russell County Fire and EMS, and the Virginia State Police channels into their radios. Charges from Russell County and the Virginia State Police are pending.”
You can read the whole story on the link to the newspaper above but it won’t help clear up lingering confusion over this story if you know anything about radio systems.
It’s not clear exactly what these two guys did, and judging from past experience with the news media, they really can’t be trusted to get a story right if they’re lives depended on it.
What’s interesting is that they were said to have programmed their radios to operate on Virginia State Police channels. Since the Virginia State Police use a trunked P25 system, the radios in question would have to be able to operate on that type of trunked system and those radios tend to be very expensive.
There’s no indication that the Tazewell County Sheriff operates on a trunked system and the same is true for the fire and EMS squads in that county, in fact, there is a mix of VHF and UHF frequencies in use. The Sheriff’s office reportedly uses a digital voice format (NXDN) that’s completely different from the P25 format in use by the Virginia State Police.
Unless there’s been some initiative to bring interoperability to Tazewell County and allow rescue squads to communicate with the state police, it seems unlikely that the rescue squad would spend money on cutting-edge radios with a hefty price tag. We are, of course, talking about local government (with emphasis on government) so I suppose anything is possible.
Perhaps these two guys spent their own money on some fancy radios and wanted to make sure they could hear all the action in their area. Still, it’s hard to figure out how they programmed it for the Virginia State Police trunked system without having connections with people who are authorized to maintain that system. I suppose if the radios they were using were P25-capable, they may have just programmed the frequencies of the trunked system into their radios and monitored them as conventional channels.
If they had the expertise to “hack” their way into the state police system that’s probably a violation of some law or another right there. I doubt that happened, but I always thought you could pretty much monitor anything as long as it was not encrypted which makes me wonder if these guys decided to transmit on frequencies they were not authorized to operate on.
In any case, they somehow managed to get themselves caught and are now in trouble with the law. The newspaper story does not reveal how they were caught but I wonder if these two guys were foolish enough to brag to someone about all the nifty stuff they could hear on their radios.