How Often Should I Change Channels
Some cities and counties will always use the same channels and have for several years. As an example many police departments will use the same radio channels theyve been using for the past 20 to 30 years. In other places the frequencies change several times throughout the year.
If you have a model thats equipped with the zip code scanning feature, I recommend updating its database at least once a month. On average channels are changed by emergency services twice a year.
If you dont have a scanner with the zip code feature, then staying up-to-date with local frequencies can be incredibly difficult. Most models that dont come equipped with this feature will require you to manually search for local frequencies.
Keep An Eye On The Cops: The Best Police Scanner Apps
Whether youre following protests or just wondering why theres a helicopter hovering over your neighborhood, police scanner apps help you stay informed on what the cops are up to.
During the recent George Floyd protests, police scanner app downloads have skyrocketed. If you’re hoping to avoid a confrontation with local law enforcement while peacefully protesting or you just want to know what’s going on in your areawhat’s that siren for? Why is there a police helicopter hovering over my neighborhood?A police scanner app can help out. As an added perk, most of these mobile apps can play fire department and weather radio, too.
These radio-scanning apps save you from buying a pricey hardware scanner: You can simply install an iPhone app or Android app on your smartphone. Both app stores are well stocked with options. Some are free, but there are features in some that make them worth paying forthe last thing you want is a video ad right when you’re trying to get crucial info. If you just want to sit at home or in a café and watch police activity, there are several scanner apps available on the app stores for macOS and Windows. You could also simply point your web browser to Broadcastify, which is the feed source for many of these apps.
Police Scanner: Best for Clear Interface and Walkie-Talkie Feature
To Encrypt Or Not To Encrypt Is The Question
Before encryption, media companies used to listen in on the radio for situations that may arise and which may need their attention.
Media companies used to assign a person to listen in and if a good situation arises, they can cover it.
Radio enthusiasts also listen in on the channels, some enthusiast even helped the cops solve crimes by providing infos to them, but all these came to an end when encryption came.
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Upgrade To Broadcastify For Even More Options
Broadcastify is the main platform Police Scanner Radio & Fire uses to source its content, but the full-fledged app is also worth a look. For $2.99, you get an ad-free listening experience with even more channels, as well as aviation, weather and amateur broadcasters.
And yes, you can still subscribe to push-notifications just like with the free app.
States That Restrict Police Scanner Use In The Furtherance Of A Crime
The image above highlights the States where there are restrictions surrounding the use of a scanner in the furtherance of a crime.
Below is a link to each States statute.
While there are nuances in each state, these laws all have the same bottom line:
If you utilize a police scanner in aid of a crime, you can be charged with an additional crime.
Penalties for this crime vary wildly from state to state. For example:
- Vermont: Up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.
- Rhode Island: Up to 5 years and a $5,000 fine.
While these laws are well-intentioned, they contain obvious oddities. An individual robbing a bank most likely will not be hindered by additional penalties. As in the case of many laws, penalties are elaborately layered.
Note: we are not licensed attorneys and we recommend that you consult an attorney if you have any questions about the specifics of these statutes. This article was written only to give surface-level background on the legality of police scanners.
Uniden Beartracker 885 Hybrid Police Scanner
BEST HYBRID MODEL
This hybrid model scanner from Uniden does it all and more, with a CB radio, police scanner, fire, ambulance and BearTracker warning system built in with 40 different channels and a 7-color display. It alerts you when any sort of public safety transmission is issued and the built-in GPS enables you to select local channels from their nationwide database. The scanner operates seamlessly alongside the CB radio so you can press a button and instantly connect to local police and fire stations. It also has an ergonomically-designed, noise-cancelling microphone so your transmissions to and from tractor-trailers, for example, come through crystal clear.
Pros: Hybrid model has an expanded range of features and capabilities, ergonomic noise-cancelling radio makes crystal-clear transmissions.
Cons: The LED display may be difficult to read during the day.
Uniden Bc365crs 500 Police Scanner
BEST NIGHTSTAND MODEL
This police scanner can do a little bit of everything. It has 500 channels in 10 banks to scan police, EMS, and local weather. But it also has an FM radio for when you want to tune into your favorite sports radio or news radio program. And we all know the early bird gets the worm, so you can program the alarm clock to wake you up for the day so you can get to scanning the airways. Its simple to control with big buttons and the display makes it easy to read even in low lighting.
Pros: Has 500 police, EMS and weather channels in addition to FM radio so you can switch back and forth between pleasure and purpose.
Cons: The aesthetic design leaves something to be desired.
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How To Listen To Trunked Police Radio
Hi everyone! Remember I wrote a post recently about how you can listen to your local police department using a Baofeng? As it turns out, most police and fire departments have moved to trunked radio. Trunked radio is just a fancy way of saying that these departments have gone digital. A Baofeng UV-5X3 or UV-5R radio can not decode this communication.
You have two options. You will either have to buy an expensive radio from Motorolla or Kenwood that supports digital modes or you can use a $25-$35 RTL-SDR. I made a short video to guide you through the whole process of ordering an RTL-SDR, finding the frequency of your local PD, and setting everything up in the SDRTrunk software.
Links mentioned in the video:
Use The Internet For Your Radio Scanner Research
Arent you lucky? Youre using radios in an age where you dont actually have to do much to find channel numbers. It wasnt too long ago that people were walking 20-miles per day to get to work, walking back uphill, then manually scanning radio channels under candlelight. Well, OK. That may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but it used to be quite hard and very time-consuming.
Nowadays, you can just head online to sites like RadioReference.com and give yourself a bit of time to browse through radio frequencies in your local area. In fact, you can look for radio frequencies anywhere in the world. Its a massive database. Obviously, you wont be able to listen to them with your radio scanner, but you can look at the pretty numbers.
99% of the time, frequencies can be found on this site, or other similar sites online. There may even be a few extra channel numbers you want to listen in to.
If you cant find what you need on one of the many databases, then look for a popular radio enthusiast forum for your local area. You can then go through and ask whether anybody knows the right channel numbers for you.
Alternatively, you can get one of those dreaded radio scanner apps. We dont recommend using them. The audio quality is generally abysmal, but these sites do a pretty decent job of telling you which radio frequencies are being broadcast, so you can just swipe the information from there and plug it into your far superior radio scanner.
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Why Are Police Scanners Open To The Public
As a Boston police manhunt took shape early this morning, Twitter feeds and Reddit threads were full of reporters and civilians tracking the events. Many people were using police scanners and apps that made Bostons police frequencies accessible on the web. For those who knew where to tune in, these frequencies provided incredible drama. A shootout took place in real time. Those listening to the scanners were able to hear it all unfold.
Thats why scanners have been used for years by journalists and curious eavesdroppers: they put police actions in public. They allow any mildly savvy, curious person to listen in on the process of law enforcement as it happens. A 1997 article from the Society of Professional Journalists called police scanners about as necessary in a newsroom as is the pen and notebook.
A police scanner can be “about as necessary in a newsroom as is the pen and notebook”
But as police closed in on a second suspected terrorist on the run this morning, local police frequencies fell silent. The online feeds stopped. And a unified message went out: Boston area law enforcement feeds are temporarily offline to protect law enforcement resources and their efforts during the manhunt underway in the Boston Metro area.
You may have wondered, as many on The Verges staff did: why are police scanners public in the first place? Why arent they encrypted to keep any Joe Blow on the web from listening in?
According to John Banzhaf, theres no legal reason why.
What Is Radio Encryption
Encryption is simply scrambling the radio transmission so that it cannot be heard, the transmission is then encoded with an encryption key, encryption keys are programmed on radios, matching encryption keys will encrypt the message and the audio will be put back together if the encryption is correct.
The concept of radio encryption is similar to house keys.
Radios that dont have the correct encryptions keys will hear the transmission as garbled up.
Did you know that you can use RTL SDR dongle to listen to police radio conversations? Learn RTL SDR here
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Scanner 911 Is One Of The Best Options For Android
Scanner 911 contains over 5,000 police, fire, rescue and other radio feeds that you can listen to for free. There is also an option to upgrade the app for $4.99 to remove ads. Premium users can also listen to the app in the background, meaning youre free to do other things on your device while you tune in.
How To Listen To A Police Scanner
- Read in app
Dont buy special equipment, says Tom Coleman, who has been listening to Chicago police- and fire-radio communications 24 hours a day for eight years. Find the department feed you want at broadcastify.com or on a smartphone app like 5-0 Radio Police Scanner. Though Coleman himself owns a $600 scanner, he mostly tunes in online.
Teach yourself to ignore what Coleman refers to as the mundane calls. Let the drone of the dispatcher reporting suspicious-person sightings become background noise. Pay attention if you hear a telltale uptick in chatter a frenetic shift in tone usually marks a bigger incident, like a homicide. Dont bother memorizing the old-school radio shorthand known as 10 codes. After communication breakdowns during the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, the federal government urged that 10 codes be phased out in favor of plain speech.
Note the circadian rhythms of crime in a place. Cities differ by season. The first warm day of spring, absolutely listen to the scanner: shootings will go up, Coleman says. In Chicago, summer nights are always busy, as are the hours after a Bears football game. Mornings tend to be slow. By Colemans measure, police-radio calls spike at 3 p.m., when kids get out of school, what he calls the most dangerous time. Incidents drop during the dinner hour but climb again in the evening until about 2 a.m.
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More Messages Of Joy And Relief From Our Readers
Oh my heart is just overwhelmed knowing this little girl is home again. Mum and Dad can hopefully get some much needed rest with their little Cleo in their arms. They can finally be together again as a family and just start to recover. I think the police did an absolutely incredible job in finding Cleo, well done to them! Such a relief for the entire nation today but particularly Cleos loved ones and her rescuers.I cried from relief when I heard the news this morning!-So relieved
Ive watched the clip over and over and my smile keeps getting bigger and bigger. What an awesome job by WA Police.-cate
My husband and I decided we are having pizza for dinner tonight in celebration! As parents to 3 young children this story has really struck a cord. We both shed tears today- it might be the first time Ive ever seen my husband teary actually. Well done WA police and thoughts with Ellie, Jake and their girls.-Celebrating!
Love the boys and girls in blue for solving this crime. True heroes -Lisa
Police Move To Block The Public From Listening To Scanners
More police departments around the country are seeking to shield their live radio communications. Above, a radio in a police cruiser in Connecticut.
A report of a suspicious person crackled from John Messners RadioShack police scanner, one of two he keeps at his home in Knoxville, Tenn.
When an officer was heard yelling Shots fired! minutes later, Mr. Messner knew it was time to go. The 52-year-old construction worker and photographer grabbed his two cameras, his portable scanner, jumped in his 1999 Plymouth Voyager minivan, and raced to the scene 3 miles away, where a suspected burglar was shot by police.
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What Is The Best Digital Police Scanner On The Market
The 7 Best Police Scanners of 2020
- Best Overall: Uniden BearTracker 885 at Amazon.
- Best Budget: Uniden BC365CRS at Amazon.
- Best Home: Uniden HomePatrol-2 at Amazon.
- Best Digital: Uniden BCD996P2 at Amazon.
- Best Analog: Uniden Bearcat BC75XLT Handheld Scanner at Amazon.
- Best Vehicle: Uniden BCD536HP at Amazon.
- Best Smartphone App:
Whats The Best Scanner Equipped With The Zip Code Scan Feature
I recommend the Uniden Home Patrol- Simple Program Digital Scanner, which allows you to simply enter in your zip code and the device will automatically scan for local frequencies. This is a very beginner-friendly model that offers excellent range and clarity, easy setup, and plenty of other features that will help to keep you up to date with local events as they happen.
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Listen To Police Scanners Online
Tim Fisher has more than 30 years’ of professional technology experience. He’s been writing about tech for more than two decades and serves as the VP and General Manager of Lifewire.
A police scanner app lets you listen to live broadcasts from law enforcement and fire department feeds. Unlike a traditional police scanner that requires a radio in close proximity, police scanners that access the internet are available for anyone with the right app or website link.
You can download a police scanner or radio scanner app for free to listen to emergency situations wherever you may be and for whatever reason. If you want to follow breaking news or are just curious about what’s going on in your neighborhood, you can do so with one of these apps that connect you directly to live police feeds.
The legality of these apps depend on where you live, or maybe more importantly, where you use it .
Finding the top 100 scanner feeds is easy.
Lets you browse for local feeds among all the others.
Police feeds can be added to your list of favorites for easy access again later.
Shows location-specific code meanings.
No Android app.
One way to get a free police scanner is with the 5-0 Radio Police Scanner app. While it does make you watch ads occasionally, it gives you access to lots of feeds all around the world and includes police scanner codes on the same screen as the feed.
This police scanner also includes access to online radio stations.
Why Should You Get A Police Scanner
The best police scanners allow you to stay in the know by scanning multiple radio frequencies quickly and letting you listen in on whats called the action bands. However, these tools have applications beyond listening to police communications. Scanners receive transmissions from police, fire departments, air traffic controls, railroads, racing events, the Coast Guard and other services that rely on two-way radio communications. There is a lot you can pick up when you use the right radio scanner.
Staying updated on the happenings with the police in your local area is a smart idea. But police scanners also give you the inside scoop on local events before it hits the news. When police are reporting to a potential disaster or dangerous situation, itll hit their scanners before anywhere else. If youre listening in, you can be the first to avoid those areas. Thats news thats even faster than Twitter!
Updates on weather and road conditions can be incredibly helpful. Sometimes a storm can roll in so quickly that you wont even realize it until you are in the middle of it. And that can turn into a real disaster if you live in an area with tornados or other natural disasters. Youll also hear accident reports over the scanner that can alert you to steer clear of a certain highway or street, so you dont get stuck in traffic.
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