Two suburban New York congressmen called Monday for prison time and stiff fines for anyone convicted of interfering with the radio transmissions of emergency responders.
Democratic Rep. Steve Israel and Republican Rep. Peter King said current federal law classifies intentional radio jamming as a civil offense, making those who get caught subject to up to $112,500 in fines, but no jail time.
The proposal would make it a criminal offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, plus civil penalties.
The legislation follows the arrest last year of a Long Island man who is facing a state charge of obstructing governmental administration, a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to a year in jail.
Suffolk County police arrested the Bay Shore man last November on charges that he repeatedly interfered with radio calls involving the nearby Melville Fire Department.
Dave Hobart, district manager of the fire department, said that for nine months, someone was breaking into radio transmissions for 10 to 15 seconds at a time. The person never said anything, but hummed incessantly. No injuries resulted from the interference, but fire officials would sometimes have to stop and switch frequencies during emergencies.
Hobart said the suspect has no known connections to the department and no one knew him.
There have been other reported incidents of people interfering with emergency transmissions.