(UnitedVoice.com) – One of the ways journalists around the country learn about crimes in progress is by listening to police scanners. The tool allows them to monitor radio traffic from law enforcement officers and other first responders, giving them a chance to pick up on big stories before officials form narratives about the events.
The city of Chicago is moving to encrypt its police department’s radio transmissions, making it impossible for the media to hear about crimes in real time. The decision has caused outrage in the media, with a coalition of organizations speaking out about it.
On Wednesday, December 14, Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended the decision to begin encrypting police transmissions, according to ABC7. She claimed the decision was “about officer safety.” The mayor explained that she thinks unencrypted communication allows criminals to find out what the police are doing and “adjust their criminal behavior” based on what they hear on the radio.
Media organizations are crying foul. They have called on the mayor to reconsider the plan. In an open letter, a coalition of press organizations told their audiences that the mayor plans to block the transmissions of Chicago Police scanners. They pointed out these communications have always been available to both the media and the press, and now, they’re raising awareness about how the change will impact the community.
Without access to the scanner feeds, the press argues it can’t “provide timely, accurate and potentially life-saving news” to its audiences. The coalition provided an example to their audiences about when it was helping, pointing to the July 4th Highland Park parade shooting. Journalists used the scanners to alert the public to the threat, telling them to “take cover, to stay safe, [and to help] to locate the missing.”
According to Fox News, media outlets claim the mayor refuses to meet in person to discuss the change.
The city is in the midst of a crime wave. Gun crimes in the city, which has strict laws regulating firearms, are extraordinarily high. In 2021, under Lightfoot’s leadership, there were more than 800 homicides. That was the highest number of murders in 25 years. More than 90% of the deaths resulted from gun violence.
Homicides are down in 2022, but as of this writing, the city had seen 667 people murdered, nearly 2 people every single day. The new move to encrypt police communications has some wondering: Is Chicago trying to hide its crime?
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