Encryption expenses to YSU
By Amanda Tonoli
Youngstown State University’s police department is being forced to make expensive changes with emerging technology taking over surrounding departments.
Shawn Varso, YSU police chief, said since the Youngstown Police Department is making the switch from an analog to a digital radio system – allowing the department to encrypt, or scramble, communication so outsiders cannot listen in on dispatches – the university’s police department has lost its ear to the outside world.
“With our current technology in our vehicles and our dispatch center, we are no longer able to monitor criminal activity,” Varso said.
In early April, Youngstown City Council sent a $1.7 million purchase request to the board of control for the new system. It still isn’t fully in place. The radios are estimated to cost about $3,000 apiece.
And $3,000 per radio is something Varso said isn’t feasible for his department right now.
One of the reasons is that YSU’s current system is “sound,” Varso said.
“We started buying equipment, but will not be joining the [digital] system now,” he said. “However, we should have someone come in and look at the cost to do that.”
Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees said he has been working with Varso to find a way to allow them to be able to monitor their system and stay in communication with YPD.
“We will make sure there remains open communications between two agencies like there has been in the past,” Lees said. “We’ll both see to that.”
He added Youngstown’s dispatch still monitors YSU to remain vigilant for all the city’s activities. “We always work in tandem,” Lees said.
Although the city does not have to encrypt the signals with the new system, police officials said they want to encrypt radio traffic to increase officer safety.