Scanner owners react to switch to encrypted police radios

FRONT ROYAL – Citizens tuning into the communications of the Warren County Sherriff’s Office and Front Royal Police Department via scanners will soon have quieter houses.

FRONT ROYAL – Citizens tuning into the communications of the Warren County Sherriff’s Office and Front Royal Police Department via scanners will soon have quieter houses. 

Both departments plan to move to fully encrypted radio systems, which will make those scanners unable to capture that communication.

Wayne Sealock, a retired Strasburg police officer and Front Royal resident, has had a household scanner all his life. He said encryption is a double-edged sword and while it enhances officer safety, citizens with scanners would like to help if possible.

For example, he recalled spotting a fleeing suspect behind his house after hearing chatter on the scanner. He notified them of the suspect’s location. While he was an officer, he recalled a couple of times when he “got in a bind” and off-duty firefighters came to help after hearing of the trouble via a scanner.

Suzanne Silek, a lifelong Warren County resident, said she has had a scanner in her house for nearly four decades. While encryption may make officers safer, she said citizens with scanners can provide assistance to both police and residents.

Silek noted that sometimes new officers could get lost on their way to a scene and she has called the dispatch officers to help point them in the right direction.

As far as helping fellow citizens, Silek recalled hearing that her sister’s house was on fire. While it did not put out the fires any faster, Silek said she was able to notify her sister much more quickly than the police. She said she also told a shop owner when his store caught on fire. 

Sealock added that he enjoys having a scanner because it brings him back to the days of being a police officer. While he will miss that connection, he said he would rather be a bit upset than any unnecessary danger be presented to officers.

While Silek said there is “not much I can do” about encryption, she will “just wonder what in the world is going on tonight when I hear the sirens or see the police speeding down the street.”