How Can I Listen to Local Police Scanners?

Until recently, it was pretty challenging to tune into emergency services such as police scanners. Detailed knowledge of different radios used in different communities was required, in addition to acquiring the expensive radios. However, with the invention of the internet, tuning into police scanners has become easier than ever.

Things have changed to the extent that you virtually have a police scanner in your hand today if you own a smartphone. You can now actually turn your smartphone into a police scanner by downloading and installing some free apps available on the internet. First, let’s understand in detail what police scanners are, and we will know a better way on how we can listen to police scanners.

What are Police Scanners?

The police departments of every community use two-way radios for short transmissions. The two-way radios used by police go through a specific channel, and police scanners receive the signals from different transmission channels within your area. You can use a police scanner to tune into the transmission channels being used by the police.

How Can I Listen to Police Scanners?

Buying a police scanner can cost you somewhere around a hundred dollars to even a thousand dollars. Therefore, when you are making the purchase, make sure that you have chosen the best police scanner for you that is worth the price. There’s no shortage of good products in the market, so choose as per the need and requirement.

Before you buy a police scanner, find out your intended purpose for the purchase. Think about whether you want to use the police scanner while you drive or you want to listen to it at home. Remember that the prices of the police scanners in the market are pretty high. If you would like a cheaper alternative, police scanner apps are the right option for you.

Set Up Your Police Scanner According to Your Needs

To hear the channels in your area, you need to program the police scanner. The modern digital police scanners are extremely easy to program. You need to enter the zip code of your territory and see the device work its way up to the tuning process.

Once the device has started working and determined your preferred area, it will give you details of all the emergency frequencies operating in your preferred city.

The programming process for older police scanners is quite different from the new digital police scanners. In the former, you need to find and manually connect all the emergency frequencies to your police scanners, which is done manually via internal databases.

If you just bought a manual police scanner, you can ask the retailer to help you set it up to avoid any technical work for you.

Tune the Police Station

Most digital scanners can automatically calibrate the transmission channels. So, all you need to do is to search through the currently loaded and connected channels. By surfing through the channels, you can find your preferred police station and listen to the transmission channel used by them.

For some previous models of digital scanners, you need to hit the program key. After that, you will need to manually enter the transmission channel’s number that you want to listen to. Unlike digital police scanners, old police scanners do not have preloaded channels that you can choose from.

To find the emergency transmission channels of several states, cities, and territories, you can do a quick internet search which will provide you with a list of all the channels available. Different police channels can also be combined into one place by using internet resources.

In addition to the transmission channels from the police department, you can also tune in to the emergency channels used by the EMS Military, the fire department, and the local Air Traffic Control center.

Police Scanner Apps

If you prefer not to spend money on expensive police scanners, you have another option. You can tune into the transmission channels using your smartphone. By installing police scanner applications on your smartphone, you can listen to any channel like you would on a traditional police scanner.

Keep in mind that when you get free applications for police scanners, they might show some ads that can interrupt the broadcast that you are listening to. Although there are many paid police scanner apps, you can get just about the same experience from a free app, except for the ad problem.

When you open the police scanner app, you will be provided with a list of the transmission channels in your area. Like a police scanner, an app also has channels divided into broad categories such as Police, EMS, and Fire. If an app uses location services from the phone, it can detect your location automatically and provide a list of all the communication channels. However, you might need to enter your zip code in some apps. From that list, you can choose the best one for you.

The Legality of Using a Police Scanner

Whether it is illegal to use a police scanner or not depends on the place that you are in. It depends on your state laws, so be informed about it beforehand. States such as New Jersey, California, Michigan, West Virginia, and Virginia do not prohibit the public from accessing police scanners. Other states such as New York, Florida, and Kentucky prohibit the public from listening to local emergency transmission channels.


Now, you are aware of the ways by which you can listen to the police scanner and stay up to date with the current situations of your locality. But before that, make sure that it is legal in your area, or else you may end up getting penalized.