Officials: Tough penalties needed for radio-jammers

Fire officials described the interference as a gibberish chant that occurred at all hours of the day and night. (3/10/14)

MELVILLE - Lawmakers are calling for stricter penalties for people who interfere with first responders' radio frequencies after a Suffolk man allegedly jammed a fire department's radios with hours of gibberish.

Melville Fire Department Chief Michael Carrieri says that for nearly 10 months, firefighters had to deal with a hacker who created interference on their radios. The man had somehow obtained the same type of radio used by emergency personnel and chanted into the radio for hours, Carrieri says.

"We have dispatchers who work day and night, and they had to hear him over, and over, and over," the chief says. "At any time it could be very serious, if you are trying to make a rescue or, God forbid, a firefighter had a mayday."

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Suffolk police and the FCC say they were able to track down the suspect, whom they have identified as Drew Buckley, of Bay Shore. Police say they are still trying to determine his motive.  No one answered the door at his home today.

Buckley has been charged with obstruction of government, and he faces one to three years in prison if convicted.

In the wake of the incident, Reps. Steve Israel and Peter King are proposing a bill that would dole out tougher penalties to radio-jammers who intentionally disrupt frequencies used by first responders.

"Our firefighters put their lives on the line for us, and those who intentionally jam their lines of communication deserve more than just a slap on the wrist," Israel says.

Under the law proposed by King and Israel, violators could face a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison. There are currently no federal laws that deal with radio-jamming first responders.

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