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Media and public cut off from Calls for Service page

San Diego County Sheriff doesn't see the need to share

"You're still left in the dark about road closures or the severity of the incident."
"You're still left in the dark about road closures or the severity of the incident."

On the evening of May 16, the San Diego County Sheriff's department was called to San Marcos to assess a few incidents. There was a hit and run on the 500 block of Grand Avenue; a person was caught allegedly driving under the influence on East La Cienega Road; a disturbing the peace incident was reported on the 300 block of West San Marcos Boulevard; a traffic accident occurred on Pico Avenue — according to the sheriff's Calls For Service page on their website.

"The Calls For Service page is a nice idea," San Marcos resident Laura Quarantiello said to me hours before the aforementioned incidents occurred, "but it's limited: it doesn't allow anyone to know the outcomes."

The Calls For Service page was launched around April 11, partially responding to the countywide residents who were "left in the dark" after the local sheriff and police departments encrypted their radios' broadcast signals on January 11.

Quarantiello, 54, is saddened by the encryptions as she's been monitoring the sheriff's radio signal for 40 years. She continued, "Encrypting all communications is not necessary to achieve compliance with the law regarding the CLETS (California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System) system."

In October 2020, the California Department of Justice mandated an order that states that "authorized law enforcement, criminal justice personnel or their lawfully authorized designees" and connected first responders — have access to the CLETS system. The mandate excludes media personnel and the general public.

The justice department mandate went into effect to protect identifiable information relayed on the law enforcement broadcasts used to trace or distinguish an individual's identity, "such as an individual's first name, or first initial, and last name in combination with any one or more specific data elements," reads the justice department website. "Data elements include social security number, passport number, military identification number, and other unique ID numbers issued on a government document. The most common data elements encountered during field operations include a driver's license number or ID number."

Quarantiello, a medical transcriptionist by trade, says the decision to encrypt the radio signals is a "real blow to police transparency .... and doesn't help during breaking incidents."

In May 2014, the Coco's Fire, also referred to as the Twin Oaks Fire destroyed 36 homes and nearly 2000 acres by Quarantiello's San Marcos home.

"The scanner was critical during the Coco's Fire a few years ago," she recounted. "Hearing the radio traffic allowed us to relay real-time information to each other on Facebook about the direction of the fire, evacuations, etc." However, Quarantiello said that the new Calls For Service page doesn't help "during breaking incidents."

Gregory Blomberg is a hairstylist from Escondido who scanned local sheriff and police radio broadcasts for over nine years and relayed the intel to his fellow scanners on the Escondido Police Scanners Facebook page. "The Calls For Service page has just been people reporting incidents after the fact," he said to me in a recent direct message. "Any posts about current events are questions that get left unanswered."

But there's another option. "The app PulsePoint will give you the location of medical, traffic accident, and fire calls, but with no details," Blomberg said. "So you're still left in the dark about road closures or the severity of the incident."

Circling back to the new Calls For Service page, there's a slight lag and an extra step needed to get an update, as the site has to be manually refreshed to get the on-the-minute sheriffs' broadcasts. Once a report is "recently closed," a green marker under the "event type" column is changed to a red colored circle.

As I sent this article to print, at 10:45 am on May 17, someone reported a stolen vehicle at 100 Santar Place in San Marcos; there was no indication of the stolen vehicle's year, make, model, and color. (As opposed to what scanners heard on radio broadcasts in the recent past.) Shortly after, at 11:29 am, a domestic violence report was made on West San Marcos Boulevard.

Quarantiello continued, "There have been numerous cases of sheriff deputies looking for wanted suspects in neighborhoods and being able to hear on the radio where they're searching and who they're searching for has been important to pass to others via social media." But only the new Calls For Service page lists date/time, event type, approximate location, community, service area, and event number. After midnight, the page refreshes, and the reports made the day before are no longer displayed.

"It's better than nothing," Quarantiello concluded, "but it needs improvement."

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"You're still left in the dark about road closures or the severity of the incident."
"You're still left in the dark about road closures or the severity of the incident."

On the evening of May 16, the San Diego County Sheriff's department was called to San Marcos to assess a few incidents. There was a hit and run on the 500 block of Grand Avenue; a person was caught allegedly driving under the influence on East La Cienega Road; a disturbing the peace incident was reported on the 300 block of West San Marcos Boulevard; a traffic accident occurred on Pico Avenue — according to the sheriff's Calls For Service page on their website.

"The Calls For Service page is a nice idea," San Marcos resident Laura Quarantiello said to me hours before the aforementioned incidents occurred, "but it's limited: it doesn't allow anyone to know the outcomes."

The Calls For Service page was launched around April 11, partially responding to the countywide residents who were "left in the dark" after the local sheriff and police departments encrypted their radios' broadcast signals on January 11.

Quarantiello, 54, is saddened by the encryptions as she's been monitoring the sheriff's radio signal for 40 years. She continued, "Encrypting all communications is not necessary to achieve compliance with the law regarding the CLETS (California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System) system."

In October 2020, the California Department of Justice mandated an order that states that "authorized law enforcement, criminal justice personnel or their lawfully authorized designees" and connected first responders — have access to the CLETS system. The mandate excludes media personnel and the general public.

The justice department mandate went into effect to protect identifiable information relayed on the law enforcement broadcasts used to trace or distinguish an individual's identity, "such as an individual's first name, or first initial, and last name in combination with any one or more specific data elements," reads the justice department website. "Data elements include social security number, passport number, military identification number, and other unique ID numbers issued on a government document. The most common data elements encountered during field operations include a driver's license number or ID number."

Quarantiello, a medical transcriptionist by trade, says the decision to encrypt the radio signals is a "real blow to police transparency .... and doesn't help during breaking incidents."

In May 2014, the Coco's Fire, also referred to as the Twin Oaks Fire destroyed 36 homes and nearly 2000 acres by Quarantiello's San Marcos home.

"The scanner was critical during the Coco's Fire a few years ago," she recounted. "Hearing the radio traffic allowed us to relay real-time information to each other on Facebook about the direction of the fire, evacuations, etc." However, Quarantiello said that the new Calls For Service page doesn't help "during breaking incidents."

Gregory Blomberg is a hairstylist from Escondido who scanned local sheriff and police radio broadcasts for over nine years and relayed the intel to his fellow scanners on the Escondido Police Scanners Facebook page. "The Calls For Service page has just been people reporting incidents after the fact," he said to me in a recent direct message. "Any posts about current events are questions that get left unanswered."

But there's another option. "The app PulsePoint will give you the location of medical, traffic accident, and fire calls, but with no details," Blomberg said. "So you're still left in the dark about road closures or the severity of the incident."

Circling back to the new Calls For Service page, there's a slight lag and an extra step needed to get an update, as the site has to be manually refreshed to get the on-the-minute sheriffs' broadcasts. Once a report is "recently closed," a green marker under the "event type" column is changed to a red colored circle.

As I sent this article to print, at 10:45 am on May 17, someone reported a stolen vehicle at 100 Santar Place in San Marcos; there was no indication of the stolen vehicle's year, make, model, and color. (As opposed to what scanners heard on radio broadcasts in the recent past.) Shortly after, at 11:29 am, a domestic violence report was made on West San Marcos Boulevard.

Quarantiello continued, "There have been numerous cases of sheriff deputies looking for wanted suspects in neighborhoods and being able to hear on the radio where they're searching and who they're searching for has been important to pass to others via social media." But only the new Calls For Service page lists date/time, event type, approximate location, community, service area, and event number. After midnight, the page refreshes, and the reports made the day before are no longer displayed.

"It's better than nothing," Quarantiello concluded, "but it needs improvement."

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