Hazleton Emergency Radio Frequency Hijacked

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HAZLETON – Firefighters in Luzerne County are turning to police to help them find the person responsible for intentionally interfering with emergency communications on a county-designated radio frequency.

Hazleton Deputy Fire Chief Brian Mandak told Newswatch 16 that he believes the same person has interfered with the frequency used by firefighters in the southern end of Luzerne County several times in the past few months.

Mandak said last Thursday night, the same man used the frequency to tell firefighters that they did not need to respond to the scene, where a pedestrian had reportedly been hit by a train near Vine Street.

The firefighters ignored the confusing chatter, and Mandak said that they continued driving to the scene and were needed to help load the injured man into an ambulance.

“Until proven innocent or until proven without a shadow of a doubt that you are the one doing it, I can`t say who it is. However, anybody who is doing this is a sick-minded individual and should be evaluated for their mental capacities,” said Mandak. “Anybody that has a radio could do this.”

Luzerne County 911 Technical Support Supervisor John Ankenbrand told Newswatch 16 that without a portable radio’s identification signal being activated and registered with the county, dispatchers cannot tell who is on the other end of the radio.

"If you know exactly what you`re looking for, you can easily get your hands on a two way radio and the programming software to program it,” said Ankenbrand. "It is life and death. People`s lives are on the line and someone messing around can cause someone to die. That`s something that we don`t want to see."

Hazleton Police Chief Frank DeAndrea said detectives are investigating the intentional radio interference and that if the person responsible is tracked down, they could be charged with risking a catastrophe.

Anyone with information is asked to call detectives with Hazleton Police at 570-450-2080.