New Brunswick

Fredericton first in N.B. to encrypt police service calls

Police radio calls in Fredericton will be switched to an encrypted system within the next few weeks.

Switch will make it very difficult for public to monitor police calls

Radio scanners like this one will fall silent under encrypted emergency service communications. (CBC)

Police radio calls in Fredericton will be switched to an encrypted system within the next few weeks.

Fredericton will be the first municipality or region to join the new New Brunswick Trunk Mobile Radio (NBTMR) system.

The city's police force and fire department will migrate to the new system, with police availing of an option to encrypt communications.

A representative with the City of Fredericton said safety and privacy are behind the decision to opt for encryption for police.

"It has two basic functions," said Wayne Knorr, communications manager for the City of Fredericton.

"One is the protection of our officers, and the second one is protection of privacy when it comes to people that might be involved in particular police calls."

Knorr says migrating to the new system will cost Fredericton just under $3.6 million over 10 years, with a monthly access fee of more than $8,000. Knorr said there is no extra cost for the encryption service. 

The system is being rolled out in the city's new Public Safety communications centre facility.

The MacNeil Report into the shooting deaths of three RCMP officers in Moncton in 2014 identified a need for encrypted police communication in the province.

The report said more secure communication would lead to better "operational effectiveness, officer safety and protection of privacy."

The RCMP said it is moving towards using encryption.

The City of Saint John said it intends to implement the system at a cost of between $2.5 million and $3 million, but it has not specified whether encryption will be used.

"Staff will present a business case to common council later in 2016 with a financial plan and options that provide the best value for money," said the city's Senior Communications Officer Lisa Caissie.

Ambulance New Brunswick said it plans to go live on NBTMR in the fall, but it currently has no plans to use encryption.

Scanner group concerns

In recent weeks, concerns had been raised about the posting of personal information from police radio calls on certain  Facebook groups.

The invitation-only Hardcore Scanner Action (HSA) group in Fredericton allows members to post detailed information from scanner calls, including the names and addresses of alleged victims and those being investigated or accused of crimes.

On Monday, the administrator of the HSA page, Gary Robichaud, told its more than 1,600 members that the group would be "no more" unless he could find out a way of bypassing the encryption.
Hardcore Scanner Action page administrator Gary Robichaud tells the more than 1,600 group members that encrypted radio will mean the group will be "no more." (Facebook)

A post from Robichaud on the page said "the party's over."

Canada's Radiocommunication Act states that "no person shall intercept and make use of, or intercept and divulge, any radiocommunication, except as permitted by the originator or intended recipient of the communication or the person intended by the originator of the communication to receive it."

In the case of an individual, a conviction can lead to a fine of up to $25,000, and/or up to a year in jail.

Industry Canada says the rules apply even when the information shared is in an invitation-only group.

Facebook's 'mistake'

Facebook has told CBC News that posts similar to those on HSA, which identify people along with their home addresses, are against its community standards policies.

A CBC News story last month highlighted one such case, where a Fredericton woman complained that she and her boyfriend were named on the HSA page following a police call for a domestic incident. The call did not result in any criminal charges.

After she was named on the page, the woman filed an official complaint to Facebook, but the post remained on the page.

Following the CBC News story on February 25, Facebook removed the post from the page.

"The post has been removed by us. There was a mistake in terms of taking it down," said a spokesperson representing Facebook.

The spokesperson could not comment on other similar posts on the page, but said "we would encourage people to report violations of the community standards."

Facebook's community standards page says the site removes "content that appears to purposefully target private individuals with the intention of degrading or shaming them."

On March 1, Robichaud asked members of the group to reduce personal attacks and trash talk about those identified on the page.

Robichaud has not responded to CBC News requests for interview.


  • An earlier version of this story stated both police and fire services in Fredericton would move to encrypted service calls. In fact, fire services will use the new radio system, but will not use encryption.
    Mar 07, 2016 5:37 PM AT