The Albany Police Department will begin encrypting all police radio transmissions in the next couple of months. Despite budget woes, the city is spending more than a quarter million dollars to scramble all the radio transmissions so only police can hear them.
Albany Police Chief John Proctor told city leaders they have found criminals with police scanners, listening to their radio traffic, so they need to encrypt them to enforce the law and protect their officers.
But now other Dougherty County law enforcement agencies say they need to buy equipment so they can get APD 's transmissions.
Albany City Commissioners approved spending more than $250,000 of SPLOST tax money for the equipment to encrypt 418 APD mobile and portable radios, because crooks have been listening.
"There have been some individuals that had these scanners. Have been informed that the police was en route, or the police was in the neighborhood," Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard said.
The Drug Unit and the Gang Task Force officers radio traffic is already encrypted. But soon all their police radio traffic will be. But now the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office and the Dougherty County Police are getting bids to buy equipment so their officers can hear the Albany Police communication.
"If we are not able to hear then we can't assist," said Dougherty County Police Chief Jackie Battle.
"It is very important that we hear their transmissions. Case in point, one and a half years ago when the Consolidated Loan was robbed, we were the first one in the chase. We were one half block away when the call went out. If we did not hear their radios at that time, other people could have been hurt or killed," said Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul.
City leaders say even though it's a lot of money, the police encryption is worth it.
"Most citizens will tell you that public safety is the department that should not be cut because that's why they pay tax. To make sure that their community is safe," Howard said
And police say keeping bad guys from listening in is vital.
The Dougherty County Sheriff and Police Department officials are getting estimates for the cost of the equipment needed to listen to APD transmissions, and then talk to commissioners about buying it.
Of course during such tough budget times funding is a real issue.
We asked to talk to Albany Police about this story Wednesday morning.
Chief Proctor called us and told us he's been discussing this change with other local law enforcement leaders for two years.