When Marion County deputies get out of their vehicle there’s a good chance they will be out of touch with dispatchers. That will be changing soon after the county commission on Monday gave Sheriff Jimmy Shinn permission to buy 13 new mobile radios.
Shinn told commissioners that the current system’s lack of coverage is an “issue I really need to address.”
While deputies have no trouble communicating while in sheriff’s department vehicles, coverage is spotty at best when they step out of them.
“We currently have 180 MHz (mobile) radios. We’re getting between 40 and 50 percent coverage on the portables which is unacceptable for my guys out here,” said Shinn. “We’ve had this problem ongoing. It’s one of the biggest complaints I get from my guys.”
Shinn cited as an example of lost communication an incident on U.S. 24 this past Saturday. After they arrived on the scene communication was lost with all sheriff’s department personnel.
“Dispatchers are trained to contact these officers 30 seconds to 45 seconds after they arrive on scene to check the status of everybody and (Saturday) they could not get a hold of them. And that was just right down here on Highway 24 off their portables,” he said.
To address the problem Shinn proposed buying 850 MHz radios.
“It’s the same (mobile) radio the Missouri State Highway Patrol uses,” reported the sheriff. “It’s a multichannel radio that’s a more powerful radio.”
One of the proposed radios has been tested throughout the county over the past few weeks.
“We have been to Nelsonville, Philadelphia, Monroe City. We’ve been trying to go around everywhere (in the county) with this radio,” said Shinn.
While the mobile radio has done very well during its test tour throughout the county, it’s coverage has not been perfect. According to Shinn, there is a small dead zone on Route 168.
“I guess with that big bluff there… ,” he said. “If we get a little past that area, by BASF, we’re good. And even when we get down closer to Hannibal on 168 we are OK.”
The cost of the 13 portable radios and repeaters, which will be installed in department vehicles to further boost the radios’ signal, totals out at approximately $79,000.
Shinn noted that a new mobile radio will not be provided every member of the sheriff’s department.
“This is not buying me one, or my chief deputy one, or one for my sergeant, who basically runs for the jail,” he said. “If we (sheriff or chief deputy) are called to the scene we already have enough guys there (with portable radios), so we don’t need one.”
The commissioners approved Shinn’s request unanimously.
“It’s important and you have got to have it. I think we need to go ahead and take care of it,” Eastern District Commissioner Larry Welch.
By Danny Henley | Hannibal Courier-Post