YORKVILLE – Yorkville police are looking into eventually making one of the department's radio channels encrypted in the next few years.
Yorkville Police Chief Jim Jensen said during a Sept. 11 public safety committee meeting that the police department is looking at switching one of their police radio communication channels to a digital frequency and eventually an encrypted one, meaning only law enforcement within the county could talk and listen to each other on that channel.
Jensen said he wants to eventually make the channel encrypted because if they had an emergency call and police responding to the call went to the encrypted frequency, other scanner listeners would not be able to hear what is going on or what police response would be. He said one example of its use was when Aurora police communicated on an encrypted frequency to talk about their response to the Henry Pratt Company active shooter incident in February.
“If you have an offender or suspect, or somebody who’s committing a crime, listening to that, you’re giving away your tactical advantage,” Jensen said.
Jensen said the police department is not looking to switch their entire radio system to encryption. He said it would only be for the one station so law enforcement can jump over to it for something like an active shooter situation, should they need to.
Jensen said the city already purchased more than 30 new radios for the department for $22,888 for fiscal year 2019. He said those radios are already digital and encrypted frequency capable and the police department would only need the frequency licenses for each radio.
Jensen said the police department would need two licenses for each radio, meaning one license for each frequency. He said the initial estimate he was given for budgeting purposes was $450 per license, but he is hoping to get better bulk pricing with other agencies possibly joining in.
“It’s going to be pretty expensive to do,” Jensen said.
Jensen said he would want to look into purchasing licenses for the digital frequency for portable radios during fiscal year 2021, purchase the encrypted licenses during fiscal year 2022 and purchase both licenses for in-car radios during fiscal year 2023.
Jensen said members of the KenCom executive board have been discussing the idea applying to agencies county-wide for almost a year and Oswego is looking to do something similar, where they already purchased the radios and just need the licenses. He said the Kendall County Sheriff's Office and the Plano and Montgomery police departments also are looking into the licenses, along with compatible radios.
A digital frequency usually has better reception and range than an analog frequency. Digital scanners typically can pick up analog frequencies, but not vice-versa.
Jensen said the reason why KenCom officials are pushing to get it done throughout the county is because if the city's police department had a digital frequency and the sheriff's office didn't, for example, the sheriff's office couldn’t communicate with city police when going to a critical call.
“So it’s extremely important that all of the agencies that participate in KenCom do the same," Jensen said. "We’re all going to need to do it.”
Yorkville Ward 3 Alderman Joel Frieders said his main concern is technology obsolescence, especially since the city just bought the more than 30 new radios for police.
“As long as these aren’t going to be outdated, I’m totally cool with it,” Frieders said.
Carri Parker, purchasing manager for Yorkville and Oswego, said the police department is looking to open up the bid process for the frequency licenses by the end of the month and to bring it back for approval in November. She said part of the agreement would also include holding contract prices for three years.