Going digital

Published 9:39 am Wednesday, February 6, 2013

WINTON – Welcome to a new age of communication.

The Hertford County Sheriff’s Office is joining its law enforcement brethren across the nation in switching its radio (car-to-car and central dispatch) from the old analog system to the new digital version.

On Monday, Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan was granted permission by the county’s Board of Commissioners to spend nearly $14,000 to purchase 20 new Kenwood mobile digital radios.

Those new radios come with a price tag of $850 each (to include installation) for a total of $17,000 to equip 20 vehicles. However, Southeastern Cable Products of Ahoskie, from whom the county will purchase the new units, is allowing a $200 trade-in allowance for 20 analog radios now used by the Sheriff’s Office.

Adding in the sales tax on the new units brings the total cost to $13,910. That money will come from the county’s contingency fund.

“What has happened across the nation is that emergency responders, such as us in law enforcement, have been mandated to go to narrow band (telecommunication that carries voice information in a narrow band of frequencies),” Vaughan explained to the commissioners. “However, we have yet to be mandated to switch to digital.”

That change, according to Vaughan, became necessary locally due to the fact that the Ahoskie Police Department has switched to a digital format and he has been told that the Murfreesboro Police will soon changeover as well.

“About a month ago there was an armed robbery in Ahoskie,” Vaughan said. “I had some of my officers fairly close to Ahoskie at that time. Because Ahoskie was on digital, my officers in the field could not communicate with the town police. Thank God nobody got hurt in that robbery, but it made me think there could be a serious problem due to that lack of communication between two different law enforcement agencies. By that I mean if one of my officers stops a vehicle just used in an armed robbery and my officer doesn’t know that information, he isn’t prepared and could get hurt. We need that line of communication between us, Ahoskie and Murfreesboro.”

The new digital radio system works much like a cell phone. A computer system assigns a frequency to a radio in the field and switches that frequency assignment as traffic on the entire system increases or as the officer moves across the coverage area. In short, more people can talk along a narrower spectrum of bandwidth,

Digital radios also crisper audio. Additionally, they drastically cut down on interference from other law enforcement agencies using the same or similar frequencies.

With digital systems, channels may be encrypted, meaning only authorized users hear the transmission.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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