The Garden City Police Department reports a serious breach of their radio frequency by amateur radio operators. On Sunday, March 17, at about 2 p.m., the communications console at the department's headquarters was interrupted by unknown male voices transmitting on the police frequency. Radio maintenance personnel checked and re-tuned the equipment but the transmissions continued. It became necessary for the police department to acquire portable radios from the Nassau County Police Department in order to function.
On Monday, March 18, radio maintenance personnel again checked and re-tuned the equipment and made several attempts to communicate with the persons on the frequency to no avail. It became necessary for Nassau County Police Communication Bureau supervisors to authorize a secure frequency on their system so that the Garden City Police Department could function. The interruptions had reached a serious level, compromising the safety of police officers and the residents.
On Tuesday, March 19, five detectives from the Garden City Police Department Bureau of Special Operations, six detectives from the Nassau County Police Department Communications Bureau and Electronics Squad and two special agents from the Federal Communications Commission initiated a joint investigation.
While monitoring the transmissions, information was obtained that they were possibly originating from the vicinity of 21st Street in Astoria, Queens. The task force responded to that location, set up and used special monitoring and tracking equipment. Several times, the force detected strong signals, narrowing down the area to 34th Avenue and 28th Street in Astoria.
On Wednesday, March 20, the task force returned and began to monitor the area. Again they detected several signals, narrowing down the area to the Ravenswood Housing Project on 21st Street and 34th Avenue. This complex consists of approximately 30 15-story buildings with multiple apartments in each. At about midnight the signals apparently stopped and could no longer be detected.
On Thursday, March 21, the five detectives from the Garden City Police Bureau of Special Operations returned to the Ravenswood Projects and physically inspected all of the roof tops, window ledges and any location that may contain an antenna. The force discovered four locations with antennas. Members of the Electronics Squad set up on each antenna site and at approximately 8 p.m. a strong signal was tracked to an apartment located at 34-03 21st Street. Members contacted and interviewed the occupant, discovering he was an amateur radio operator who had searched various frequency bands, looking for a quiet frequency to use with his friends.
He stated that he was unaware that it was the frequency of the Garden City Police Department. Further investigation revealed that his equipment had been modified, which enabled him to access secure stations. He surrendered his equipment and cooperated with the investigation. The task force was then able to track and locate three other interfering locations. Owners surrendered all equipment, four base stations and three hand held radios.
All four individuals were friends and each had obtained modified equipment capable of breaching secure frequencies. However, they were unaware that it was a violation to possess this type of equipment and were not criminally charged. They are cooperating with the investigation. Since this group has been shut down, there have been no further interference incidents with the radio system. For further information, call Det./Sgt. James Bartkowski of the Garden City Police Department at 465-4108.