By Janon Fisher PoliceOne Correspondent (MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.) -- A police radio hacker has been endangering citizens' and officers' lives by disrupting service in several police departments in the Minneapolis area with fake reports at least once a week for the past two months, authorities told PoliceOne.com today.
The imposter, according to the 911 Center's assistant director, Tom Donohoe, is "putting out calls for help saying 'I've been shot' or 'I'm down.' Sometimes he gives a location and sometimes he doesn't." Other times the hacker disrupts radio operations by patching together signals from two different departments. Donohoe said that the Minneapolis police hear neighboring Burnsville's communications over their radios, which cause a logjam in radio traffic. "We have to wait until they are finished before we can go ahead," Donohoe told PoliceOne.com. Dispatchers must immediately check with officers on duty to assure that nobody is injured when the false reports come in. Occasionally the hacker gives a false address and police must respond to the scene.
"It eats up valuable air time and it's truly becoming a public safety hazard," Donohoe said.
The harassment started in spring 1999, lasted for a couple of months and then stopped until April 2000.
Authorities believe the hacking, which only happens in the evening from 9 to 11, is the work of one person. Donohoe said that sometimes the dispatchers don't hear the communications, leading police to believe that the culprit is transmitting with in the local area.
"We think it's just a prankster," Donohoe said. "It was an irritation at first, but we can work around that, but he's endangering citizens and officers' lives with these calls for help."
The Burnsville Police Department, the Federal Communications Commission and the Minneapolis Police Department have all assigned detectives to investigate the problem.
A spokesman for the Burnsville Police department declined to discuss their ongoing investigation with PoliceOne.com. "We're hoping that he either comes to his senses and stops, or someone he's bragged to turns him in," Donohoe said. Police encourage anyone who has any information to call the Radio Hacker hotline at (612) 673-5337.