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Oconee Sheriff's Office, Watkinsville Police Now Using New Digital Communications System

The regional Oconee Area Radio System allows law enforcement and firefighters to communicate over a secure, digital network.

It's been in the works for years, and at 9 a.m. Monday, the and Watkinsville Police officially made the switch to the Oconee Area Radio System (OARS), a digital network that allows agencies to communicate seamlessly and securely with one another in real time.

Baldwin, Walton, Morgan, and Greene counties are already members of OARS and Athens-Clarke, the University of Georgia, and other agencies are planning to join, Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry said.

Technicians are installing radios in vehicles and deputies and also being equipped with pre-programmed portable radios that function in over 98 percent of the county.

According to Berry, there are only two other regions in the state communicating through digital systems. They are in the Savannah and Coweta areas.

"This is cutting edge, state of the art," he said.

Oconee County Fire Department personnel are also being equipped with radios and receiving training, and will join law enforcement in using the OARS system later this year, Berry said.

A and special-purpose, local-option sales tax monies funded the infrastructure and equipment in Oconee County.

Look for more details about the digital communications system in a story tomorrow.

Joe Harrison May 09, 2012 at 01:11 AM
There are several regional radio systems now in Georgia. However, the biggest difference between them and OARS is that only OARS has chosen to encrypt all public safety radio traffic, even fire departments. The others only encrypt sensitive talkgroups and leave routine radio traffic in the clear so their citizens can know what is going on around them. Now, we in Oconee, Walton and Greene counties will only know whatever the local agencies think we should know about our areas. Sad.
Ernest P. Worrell May 09, 2012 at 10:14 PM
What Joe's comment means to those of you who are scanner listeners and not necessarily into the technology of radio communications is that there is no scanner you can buy that will allow you to listen to Oconee County now. If Oconee chose not to encrypt their radio traffic, the new digital scanners would work. According to the article, it looks as if you will still be able to monitor the fire department until they switch to the new equipment. There is a chance they will leave their old system in place so firefighters with pagers will be able to monitor calls. If that's so, your current scanner will hear them.

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