JAMMERS OR, "GOD LUV UM", NOBODY ELSE DOES
By Peter Policani, K7PP
Like everyone else, I have ways of dealing with jammers. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I have had some luck with different ways of making their pastime a little more difficult for them. "Just ignore um"! How many times have you heard that said? You know what? It doesn't work. Who came up with that little gem anyway? Some one who has a deep insight into the mentality of those who jam? Perhaps they say it because it's the only thing they CAN do. I have pursued and caught seven different jammers in the last 25 years while some of my cherished users sat at home watching TV. I even had one of them ask me "when are you going to do something about that guy"? Jammers are very well aware of the "ignore them and they'll go away" mentality. They love it! A very good friend once told me, "don't get stressed, give stress". I have found this effective in dealing with jammers.
"The timid jammer"
This person likes to kerchunk the repeater over and over until the thumb gets tired. He likes to hear the courtesy tone go beep and the repeater go kerchunk. It's almost like the dripping water torture system. I have had good luck with making my hang time at least one minute and removing the courtesy tone. I have put this mode into a macro and can invoke it at will. I call it my "Bozo" macro. Now! The timid jammer must be very dedicated. He has to wait at least one minute to kerchunk. He no longer gets the courtesy "beep" and can't make the repeater come up, because it already is up. Too much work! The normal repeater user can still use the machine.
"The packet jammer"
This fellow likes to send packet information on repeaters. A macro with a delayed PTT and instant dropout has worked for me. An old modem with a data detect line hooked to your controler to inhibit PTT might help. Also use the data detect line to start a tape recorder. Sometimes the packet interference is not malicious and the tape recorded data can be handy in identifying the problem station. It can be decoded at a later time and may include the stations call.
"The part time jammer"
This fellow masquerades as an upstanding ham most of the time but makes his disgruntlement with different repeater users or the repeater operator known by disrupting communications. If he can't operate the system the way he wants, when he wants, then no one gets to use it. He may be part of your group and may even be one of the ones complaining the most about "the jamming".
If you have a suspect, I have had good luck parking close by with a handy talky with the antenna removed to listen to see if the signal is coming from a suspects house. Listen for any tell tale noises that you might identify later when your suspect is involved in a legitimate QSO such as a stereo playing in the background, a clock ticking, dogs barking. Try calling his phone number while he has "key down". In the mobile, listen for alternator wine, mike noise, mike gain, audio quality etc. This still may not be enough to say for sure, but it's a place to start. Be very careful as to the person you accuse publicly about jamming. If you are wrong or if you don't have enough evidence to prove it, you may be the one paying damages.
"The sound effects jammer"
This fellow feeds on indignation and disgust. Sound effects are "his bag" and even a disgusting word or two in a disguised voice. His favorite pastime is waiting until someone is making an autopatch to a family member and then unloading his best stuff.
I have had good luck with a second macro position that allows my repeater to respond to any signal on the input. Anyone with carrier squelch will bring the repeater up. The only difference to normal operation is that the system will not pass audio unless the right subaudible tone is used. There is no indication that there is anything other than normal operation. If I used courtesy tones, I would include one. That way the jammer thinks he is getting his "licks" in. In reality, no one hears anything except a kerchunk and a courtesy beep. It makes it difficult for the jammer to find the right tone because he thinks everything is normal to begin with and even if he didn't he would have to find a way to listen to himself to tell if his audio was making it through the repeater. The only problem I see, is finding a way to keep your users from talking about it on the air. (hey old man, you need to run a 103.5 tone to get ur audio to go through)
For those who have a carrier system, you could try variations of carrier squelch with tone for autopatch or the tone for autopatch changing each month. If you wanted, you could change the tone everyday and publish a list. There are lots of variables. Of course, if the jammer is a member of your group or club, this won't work either, but it will tell you that the offender is allot closer than just a casual user.
"The rabid jammer"
I have just run across one of these "things". They are very sick people that need to do what they do in order to have some effect to the world around them. Every thing else they do is a zero and I think that the ability to affect a large number of people, even in a negative manner, is just to good an opportunity to pass up. Combinations of the two methods may not be enough. Turning off the repeater might have to be your alternative. There are other ways that one might still continue to operate, but it might involve using a non standard subaudible tone or perhaps an alternate input frequency or, better still, a special alternate subaudible tone frequency that is only active during jamming sessions. The jammer might not be smart enough to look for a second tone and especially one that is not active unless it is turned on. (one goes on as the other goes off) This method is very effective if used in combination with the carrier only to get push to talk and the special tone to pass audio. Your users, of course, would know this. Nothing enrages this type of person more than hearing a conversation that he cannot effect.
The Future . . .
Well, what's to be done? Do you track the jammer down and confront them? I have been stupid enough to do this on several occasions with out thinking. It didn't occur to me that I was putting myself at terrible risk. Most of the jammers I have dealt with have been sniveling cowards, but two were not. They were just crazy. You never know who or what you are dealing with. Don't put yourself at risk, it's not worth it. If you call the FCC, you are just wasting your time. Nothing will be done. The worst part about this is that they will take your information and pretend that they intend to do something. If only they could be honest with the hams. Just simply say "we can't help you". At least they wouldn't be wasting our time. You might have better luck dealing with local law enforcement. It's against the law to stalk someone. Using a radio to do it shouldn't make any difference. Perhaps, the computer hacking law? Since most repeater controllers are computer controled this may apply. If a criminal approach doesn't work, a punitive one might. If you can show that you and your group are suffering damage from an action perpetrated by a person or persons, you may be able to obtain a restraining order and then sue for damages. Other groups in California have used this method successfully.
The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to collect all the information you can and above all, all the evidence you can to support your case. This includes statements from witness and perhaps a log of the times and places. Any tape recordings or other items to support your position.
If you can show damage and have witnesses to support your position, you may very well win a judgement. If you wanted to make a point, you could have as many in your repeater group that could afford it, file a civil suite separately for damages. This way the jammer would have to hire an attorney to defend himself in each case. He might find it cheaper to take up boating. We shouldn't have to put up with this type of harassment. There are ways of dealing with it legally. Going to our government to enforce Federal Communications laws is a sad joke. There is no enforcement.
I have often thought that a group within the WWARA might be formed to tackle these types of offenses. If we can make it very expensive for people to jam repeaters, it might have an effect.