Hunt is on for radio pirates
THE search is on to find out who is placing illegal and dangerous pirate radio aerials on high buildings and lighting masts across Stevenage. Communications watchdog Ofcom says it is concerned as the transmitters, which have been found on masts at the Ve
THE search is on to find out who is placing illegal and dangerous pirate radio aerials on high buildings and lighting masts across Stevenage.
Communications watchdog Ofcom says it is concerned as the transmitters, which have been found on masts at the Verity Way and Martins Way roundabout and on top of Harrow Court, could interfere with emergency services' radios and national air traffic services.
The aerials are erected on tall buildings and connected to the structure's power supply so that radio signals can be transmitted.
The antennas are often booby trapped to cause electric shocks to anyone who may tamper with them and in some case are covered in razor blades.
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Ofcom said the people behind pirate radio stations often use violence and have heavy involvements in the drug world.
They will resort to violence against caretakers, council workers and residents in an attempt to install their transmitters on buildings.
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In the case of the aerial on the mast at the Verity Way roundabout an Ofcom spokesman said the offenders probably physically climbed the mast to put it up.
A Stevenage Borough Council spokesman said: "We have removed illegal antennas from Harrow Court several times. We are taking steps to find out who is erecting them so Ofcom can take the appropriate action."
Robert Thelen-Bartholomew, head of field operations at Ofcom, said: "Illegal broadcasting - such as pirate radio - is a menace. It causes serious interference to the communications systems used by safety-of-life services as well as legitimate radio stations.
"The aerials and transmitters that are used by those people involved with this criminal activity are often dangerous as they are sometimes wired to the mains electricity and booby-trapped."
He said there is also a link between illegal broadcasters and illegal drugs.
Raids have uncovered a range of illegal substances and there is evidence that the broadcasters send coded messages to dealers and users by playing a particular song to indicate that drugs are ready for collection.
Hertfordshire Highways is asking residents to be vigilant and report sightings of any illegal antennas.
Cllr Stuart Pile, executive member for highways, transport and rural affairs said: "Interfering with highway features and street furniture without authorisation from Hertfordshire Highways is against the law and I would ask people to report sightings of these antennas to Ofcom.
"Tampering with structures not only puts an additional burden onto the public purse, but it could also cause serious hazard to the public.
"Furthermore, it could result in damage to the telecommunications companies' legitimate antennas which are on the masts with our consent."
o To report an illegal aerial call Ofcom on 020 7981 3040.