‘Havasu Scanner Feed’ feeds community’s curiousity

Source is News Herald.

Robert Starkey is founder of Havasu Scanner Feed.Robert Starkey had no idea that the Facebook page he created airing behind-the-scenes audio of Lake Havasu City’s police and fire departments responding to emergencies would become so popular.

But it has.

Around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, the 30-year-old pulled up Havasu Scanner Feed and even though the scanner was quiet, the site still showed that 21 people were listening.

When the page went live two months ago, one person had “liked” it. As of 1:25 p.m. Saturday, that number reached 3,751. On average, 63 new people a day have been “liking” the page since it began.

“This monster will take off on its’ own,” he said.

Starkey basically just hooked up a police and fire scanner — available in retail stores — and tuned into Lake Havasu City’s frequencies so that emergency dispatch calls feed into the webpage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anyone older than 18 years old can “like” the page and listen to the city’s police and fire departments being dispatched to emergencies within the city.

But that audio access also includes being able to hear citizens’ names needing an emergency response and their addresses.

Enthusiasts of Havasu Scanner Feed have started volunteering their time by posting what they hear over the scanner onto the webpage, but anyone can post what they hear. Readers can also get the alerts on their cell phones.

However, one of the page’s rules is to not post names or exact addresses, and the webpage’s administrative team is diligent to enforce the rules by monitoring posts constantly. For now, Starkey and the volunteers just monitor and post whenever they can. There is no schedule or shifts, but he admitted that if the page continues to grow in popularity, he may need some help.

“I can’t be doing this 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said the full-time disc jockey. “It’s having an inside scoop. It’s knowing what’s happening before the newspaper can get to it.”

Posts like: “vehicle in building Dollar General. On maricopa” posted around 12:08 p.m. Saturday. Earlier that day, around 5 a.m., someone posted: “#medical# #police# Injo woman is reporting sick and suicidal wants psychiatric help.” And even in the earlier morning hours, someone had posted: “MEDICAL# 50-year-old male fell in driveway and is bleeding from nose and mouth, Keywester and Venturer Ln.”

Starkey said he used to listen to scanners when he was younger and stumbled across a similar site for Lake Havasu City that he decided to help improve. Eventually, he took over the information, he said.

He said he started the webpage without first consulting with the city’s police and fire departments, but he said the public’s constant access to the emergency personnel calls makes it more aware of what’s happening in the community.

And police and fire department officials agree, but still have concerns that the site might draw the curious out to scenes of accidents and crimes and hinder emergency personnel’s work.

“We support the public having as much knowledge and information about what their police department is doing that goes along with Chief Doyle’s philosophy of running a transparent department,” said Lake Havasu City Police Department Spokesman Sgt. Joe Harrold. “(But) let the police department, who is trained to handle these situations, let them do their job.”

Harrold also said he was concerned about wrong information being posted that could potentially cause harm to residents.

Someone posted on the site at 10:59 a.m July 21 that there was a deceased grandmother in the 4000 block of Northstar Drive, but it was the grandmother who had called police and reported that it was her grandson who was possibly deceased.

“Anybody can go out and buy a scanner and plug into our frequencies and listen,” Harrold said. “There are no issues there. We see this as a great tool. It could certainly benefit the community, but at the same time, we want folks to use it as it was meant, a receipt of information. An informed public is a safer public.”

Lake Havasu City Fire Department Capt. Tony Rivello called the site “amazing.”

“By having that information in front of their face, they are actually able to see what’s going on in the community,” Rivello said. “So many people really have no idea of the things that are occurring right in their own backyard. I was thoroughly impressed with how fast his subscribers grew on his page.”

Rivello echoed Harrold’s concerns over residents arriving on scene to see what’s happening. He said users should treat the webpage as a “news feed.”

He also said he had concerns about residents’ privacy, but said the webpage’s administration team has “some very good ground rules” for its volunteers who post information.

“We would not (want to) compromise anybody’s privacy or expose anybody’s identity that they may not get otherwise,” he said. “It’s a little more serious business and it’s an opportunity for people in the community to see what’s happening in a news feed relationships to police and fire.”

But both Harrold and Rivello said the release of information could sway residents in the opposite direction of rubberneckers by helping them to steer clear of crime and accident scenes.

But Starkey and other volunteers said they can only see the webpage helping the community. Several posts on the page ask for the crisis hotline number and one poster suggested forming a neighborhood watch group.

Starkey said they don’t post certain alerts and noticed teens and children were ringing doorbells and running away or calling 9-1-1 and hanging up just to see it post to the webpage, which led to their ban.

“Most of the people that go on there say we had no idea what’s going on in the town,” said 29-year-old Sarah Berger, one of the volunteers. “I was amazed at all the stuff that does happen.”

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