Cell phone app for police scanners - WFLA News Channel 8

Cell phone app for police scanners

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PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

When Pinellas deputies finally caught up with home invasion suspect Terry Lamar James Friday, after an involved chase, they made a surprising discovery.  An Iphone in the stopped SUV was broadcasting police radio communications.  "It was very clear to us as to what happened.  The reason they knew they were being followed was because of what they were hearing on the radio,  " said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas county.

A woman passenger in the SUV had a police scanner app on her phone.  Traditional radio scanners pick-up communications from various law enforcement agencies in the area.  Now anyone can download a mobile app for their phone that does the same thing.  There are dozens to choose from and some are even free.

St. Petersburg and Largo police departments don't report encountering this problem yet, and this was the first time for the Pinellas Sheriff's Office.  "Especially in the middle of surveillance, in the middle of a very significant operation, a very dangerous situation," said Gualtieri.

Each state has it's own laws and rules concerning the mobile apps.

In Florida, the apps are legal.  " I think law enforcement has to be very careful. This is probably going to happen more and more....as more people have the apps," said Gualtieri.

Law enforcement agencies have encrypted frequencies they can use to transmit communication that are not open to the public.  In the case of the chase last Friday, there were three different agencies involved and it developed so quickly, the alternate frequencies were not an option, according to Sheriff Gualtieri.

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