While making a routine of listening to Public Safety’s radio communications may not sound exciting, those who do are sometimes privy to dramatic events unfolding on campus.
“I was scanning when someone tried to steal something from a car in a University Commons lot. They broke a window, and took off on foot. I listened while Campus Safety pursued them to Riverknoll; they found him and called the Sheriff,” recounts Dave Snyder, a graduate student in Imaging Science. Snyder is an amateur radio operator who has a ham license.
Most of what goes out over the radio is much less exciting: there’s a lot of talk about unlocking rooms, assisting people with car trouble, and locking up at the end of the day. Any critical information is communicated by cell phone. Officers know that their frequencies are open and that the public is listening in.
Still, Snyder says that he finds listening to RIT’s frequencies interesting. If there’s a bad situation, like an alleged gunman on campus, radio information could be faster and more informative than the RIT Alert system or social media. That’s why he used radio equipment in a lab left over from a defunct Electrical Engineering project to stream Public Safety’s scanner feed on http://radioreference.com, a web site that hosts user-submitted feeds.
Scanning police frequencies is common and legal. Anyone who wants to tune in needs only to buy a scanner, find the frequencies online, and program their radio. Scanner feeds on the web make it even easier; listeners can tune in on their laptop or mobile phone.
But a system administrator in charge of the EE lab quickly put an end to Snyder’s streaming setup, citing a campus rule against running unauthorized servers using RIT computers.
When the feed came down, Snyder received requests to put it back up, including offers to help with equipment and a location. He thinks it should be back up soon.