VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Beach Police Department is replacing portable radios with encrypted transmissions.

According to a release from the department, they have explored the implementation for several years before the funding was approved in 2018. It will be implemented effective Thursday, July 28.

“The need to secure police communications is of critical importance,” said the VBPD in the release. Officers regularly transmit citizens’ sensitive, personal identifying information (PII) during encounters to verify identity and warrant status, among other law enforcement functions.

The department says this open-air transmission puts citizens at risk for identity theft and similar economic-related crimes. 

Currently in Virginia, state code mandates law enforcement to protect/restrict the identity of victims of sexual assault and juveniles who are victims of crime or who are subject to arrest. 

Additionally, VBPD says the transition is also to protect officers who respond to calls for service.

“There are numerous examples where criminals utilized technology to track police movement and locations to facilitate criminal activity and thwart apprehension.”

Officials say portable radios lead to opportunities for criminals to learn police behavior through continual monitoring of open-air transmissions. 

“Allowing criminals the ability to understand and anticipate police response times, procedures and tactics can prove to be dangerous for law enforcement and the community alike.”

Although they are transitioning, VPPD say they are committed to public transparency and accountability.

“Secure, encrypted communications do not supersede or lessen our responsibility to provide copies of radio transmissions as required by the public records laws of Virginia.”

The public retains the ability to stay informed of police department actions and responses, just not in real-time.

Learn more about the transition HERE.

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