Law enforcement has been contending with ongoing interference on the primary radio channel that it uses, but the problem is not due to any intentional act, according to San Benito County Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Taylor.
“It is not uncommon for radio systems to experience periods of atmospheric interference and other anomalies,” Taylor said. “The Sheriff’s Office is responsible for the maintenance and oversight of the county communications network and we have been working with the Federal Communication Commission and a local radio expert, Emergency Vehicle Specialists, to track the interference and isolate it.”
Emergency Vehicle Specialists did not respond to requests for comment.
Hollister Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo told BenitoLink that the fire department has not experienced any significant issues with its radios because it does not share frequencies with law enforcement.
Hollister Police Chief David Westrick chalked it up to “antiquated infrastructure.”
“The problems with the radios have been going on for years,” he said. “The county hasn’t put a heck of a lot of money in it since 2008. I’ve been here since 2013, and it’s been an ongoing conversation.”
Westrick said the recent problems are even more of a reason to switch from analog to digital technology. In April, the Hollister City Council passed a resolution to purchase and install a digital public safety radio repeater system for the Hollister Police Department in order to improve signal reception within the city.
“The system we’re building now in the city will augment the channel and make it more reliable than it is now,” Westrick said.
However, Taylor said Westrick’s reference to upgrading equipment is not related to the interference taking place over the past few months.
“We do not have old equipment,” Taylor said. “We have modern equipment that is designed to operate on analog and digital technology. We are going to make the switch to digital soon.”
He said switching to digital transmission is more of a security matter rather than a channel performance issue.
“Basically, digital makes it difficult for people to scan our channel,” he said. “It does nothing for how well it works and some people are confused about two different issues. Neither, however, affect the safety of the community.”
Taylor said the Sheriff’s Office and San Benito County are licensed for multiple frequencies on multiple repeater sites throughout the county.
“Currently, we are operating on a backup channel while troubleshooting the primary channel,” Taylor said. “There are multiple channel frequencies we are licensed to use as a matter of redundancy.”
Taylor said that at no time has there been a point where deputies or Hollister Police officers were unable to communicate. He also said the 911 phone system is completely independent of the radio infrastructure.
“It has not been impacted and is operating as designed,” he said. “The community can rest assured when a call is made for public safety assistance, help will be on the way immediately.”
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