Want to listen to the police scanner in Lansing? Pay up.

New police radio system limits public access to free scanner feeds

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THURSDAY, Sept. 16 — Regular listeners of free online police scanner feeds in Greater Lansing may have noticed a bit less radio chatter than usual after local cops switched to a new digital system that is largely inaccessible without the purchase of expensive radio equipment. 

A new digital radio system (approved and funded as part of a phone surcharge for 911 calls) was released Sept. 7. And for the last week, many Lansing residents — this reporter included — have been unable to find affordable access to police radio communications.

“The folks that went to Best Buy and bought the $99 scanner will be disappointed. Those cheaper analog scanners will not work with our new digital system. But, if they are willing to spend more in the ballpark of $400-500 for the digital counterpart and put some work into programming it, they can listen just like they had in the past,” said 911 Director Barb Davidson.

Davidson said the radio upgrade project has been underway for about four years. She also noted that the changes were not designed to inhibit public access to police communications.

As for the dearth of online feeds like those on Broadcastify.com? They’ll eventually return, Davidson said. Those free streams are typically fed by HAM radio operators. Once those folks upgrade to a digital radio stream, they’ll once again be able to continue to provide the service.

Some local law enforcement divisions, however, will continue to communicate entirely in private — just as they did within the old analog radio system. Davidson said two SWAT teams in Ingham County as well as the Law Enforcement Information Network channel that is used to run license plates and check warrants still operate “encrypted talk groups” that will remain inaccessible even with a new digital scanner. She noted that “main talk groups” will not be encrypted, but those private channels will also be used for certain “high priority situations.”

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