“This was the call he’d been waiting for.   The controller had just dispatched an armed response unit to an alarm activation at the High Street bank.  Thankfully, listening to the police radio broadcasts allowed the award-winning investigative journalist and crime reporter to get to police incidents as they unfolded rather than at some pre-arranged police briefing hours after the event.”

I remember when as a kid, I had a very large portable radio with multiple bands on it. I would often lie in bed at night and tune in to listen to police radio chatter. It was fun trying to determine who I was listening to and on a few occasions, I even managed to locate the police patrolling around my area.

When I joined the police, I knew from personal experience why people such as reporters were often on the scene of a crime or an accident about the same time that I arrived. They either listened to police broadcasts on their wireless radio or scanner.  It was hard in those days to have secrets or to keep them for very long.

Most of the times, things were in the public interest with nothing to hide. However, there was always that element who sought to exploit the technology of the day for their own ends i.e. the commission of crime.

Image result for airwaves police radioThankfully, today in the UK, it is not possible for Joe public to listen to police broadcasts. All radio transmissions are digital, over a secure Airwave network. The only way to listen to what is being said, is either to possess a stolen police radio, which won’t stay usable for long after it is reported lost or stolen or to overhear a police officer or PCSO using or listening to their own radio.

The UK is unlike the U.S., where many police transmissions are unencrypted and the use of even a cheap radio scanner will allow anyone to listen into police chatter as it happens.

So, think twice if you want to include police radio conversations or information from them in your UK-based stories.

For more information on the current usage by North Yorkshire Police of the Airwave system, have a look at the following document – Airwave Radio Operating Procedure

Also be very mindful that the contract between the police and Airwave is due to end around April 2016 and as yet there is no known alternative service provider or replacement police technology.  As things look, the way the police communicate after April 2016 may change significantly.  Read the following article for more information – Police radios to be killed off

The most comprehensive policing directory in the world for writers and researchers can be found by following this link.

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  1. J E Ellard says:

    Hi Kevin,

    One of the Irish TV (RTE) programmes this week featured an examination of MP’s and Councillors who have allegedly been taking bribes , or soliciting them, for services to be rendered. EG Ensuring a project would receive planning permission. The programme was chaired by a potential high flier who certainly was making a name for herself. I felt that it was the same as a ‘sting operation’ which I understood was illegal in the UK. Could you give me a bit of information on what is allowed, and what is definitely taboo please?

    For your information, ater four years I have finally completed the umpteenth version of my frst novel, even though I have completed two others (to first draft only) I sent it firstly to a competition in the USA, and then to two agents in England who both accept crime novels. ‘ll have my fingers crossed for the next few weeks. Have a great Christmas, and Best Wishes for the new year. Eric Ellard


    • Hi Eric
      good to hear about your submission and good luck with it.

      Stings are not illegal but very rarely used due to the many pitfalls likely to be encountered that will ruin the case. If one os being planned, usually the Crown Prosecution Service (in England and Wales) will be consulted if not directly involved in the planning of the operation in an attempt to reduce the pitfalls and risk.

      Bets wishes for Xmas and the New Year to you too.



  2. J E Ellard says:

    Hi Kevin, And Happy New Year.

    I have a couple more suggestions for the next edition of ‘218 facts .’

    These concern search warrants.

    I am aware that an application has to be made to a magistrate. Is there a specified form for this, and does the magistrate give a written form of authority.

    As above, but does the officer have to go to a higher body (court or jusge) for a more serious form of crime.

    Does the property owner have to be at home? And is he handed the warrant to read?

    What happens if he is not at home – eg away on holiday.

    Is a further warrant required or does the first one suffice for forced entry.

    Who pays for repairs to the door/window.

    I have in mind the necessity to enter a locked garden shed which holds (visible from the crime scene next door) a length of garden hose, which is beleived to be the methed in which gas was introduced into the adjacent house.

    Assuming the shed is entered, can the suspected item be removed for forensic testing or is further form filling necessary.

    That covers all aspects I can think of, though if there are any further aspects, perhaps you could cover them in your response please.

    Finally, evidence from the garden shed necessitates a visit into the suspects home a few feet away. Does the initial warrant allow this, or is another application necessary.

    Sorry to take up so much of your time, but I hope it helps you too, as the reason for a further topic in future editions.

    Many thanks,

    Eric Ellard. jericellard@gmail.com


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