New Sheriff's Department radios to improve communicatino

Deidre Cruse

The Iberville Sheriff’s Office switched over last Thursday to a new radio system that will provide for better communications around the parish and beyond, Maj. Johnny Blanchard announced.

“This will increase coverage for us all over the parish,” Blanchard said.

The sheriff’s office has been operating on an 800-megahertz system dependant on a tower near the Grosse Tete Bridge for transmission.

In the farther reaches of the parish, such as the Eastside or the Atchafalaya Spillway, deputies had difficulty staying in range of the tower.

“Our radios couldn’t get out because it was just too far,” Blanchard said.

Sprint/Nextel needed the frequencies the Sheriff’s Office was using, so the company paid to replace all the radios that could not be upgraded, he said.

The new 700 megahertz system will operate more like cell phones, working off several towers instead of just one, Blanchard said, although they will be able to switch back to the old system if they need to.

The new system will allow for encrypted communications. Like the old system, however, it will allow the department to tape all its radio calls, the major said.

The Sheriff’s Office has some 200 radios for its use, plus another 100 IDs for the office, and another 200 Ids available for municipalities, he said.

“We have more Ids than radios, so we have room for growth,” Blanchard said. “It’s a long-term project.” 

The Louisiana State Police, other law enforcement agencies and the Office of Emergency Preparedness all will be accessible on the new system, the major said.

The project cost $2 million, most of it paid for with a grant. The sheriff’s office had to pay $50,000 of the cost, Blanchard said.

The Louisiana Sheriff’s Task Force for this region, which includes Iberville, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, St. James, St. John and Pointe Coupee parishes, also will use the new system. The organization provides interagency support for working festivals, or hurricanes.

“I created a channel just for us so we can communicate as a group, and not interfere with the day-to-day operations of whoever’s parish we’re in,” Blanchard said.

The task force also has other mobile command post equipment for self-contained communications.

“The public won’t like this,” Blanchard predicted. “Their scanners won’t pick them up.”