Is It Illegal to Listen to Live Police Scanner Audio Feeds?

Scanner radioOne common question people have about police scanners is whether it is against the law to listen to live police scanner audio feeds. It is not illegal to monitor police audio feeds and police scanner frequencies with radio scanners from the privacy of your own home or business. However, each state sets its own laws in regards to monitoring police radio frequencies with portable scanner radios and using online police scanner apps on smartphones. If you intend to listen to these transmissions, it is your responsibility to check with your local government agencies to find out more about the laws and regulations in your area.

Why Do People Listen to Live Police Scanner Audio Feeds?

People monitor police scanner frequencies and listen to live police scanner audio feeds for various reasons. For instance, reporters and journalists rely upon these transmissions to learn about potential news stories they feel should be shared with the general public. Off duty police officers, volunteer firefighters, and other emergency responders listen to scanner chatter to know exactly what is going on, especially during emergencies, to determine whether they need to report for duty, such as during a major power outage. In addition, people use a police radio scanner to find out about accidents and traffic congestion, so they can avoid these areas and take alternate routes.

What Information Is Shared over Police Scanner Frequencies?

The information communicated over police scanner frequencies is normally limited to specific details between the dispatcher and the responding agency. For instance, if there is traffic accident, the dispatcher normally alerts police, fire, and ambulance services. Upon arrival at the scene, the responding agencies may communicate whether anyone is injured and if towing services are needed. However, more sensitive information, such as the names of those involved in the accident and extent of injuries, are communicated through other secure channels, rather than publically broadcasted over live scanner audio feeds.

How to Select the Best Police Scanner

Finding the top police scanner to use to monitor and listen to scanner communications largely depends on how and where you want to use the scanner. If you are going to be using the scanner radio at home or your business, or your local laws allow you to install it in your vehicle, a base or mobile scanner is a good choice. On the other hand, if you want a scanner to use for emergencies, or your local laws allow you to carry a scanner radio with you wherever you go, then you should consider a portable scanner. The key to selecting the best scanner is not getting distracted by the features or number of channels offered on a particular model, but ensuring the model you select is capable of picking up the radio frequencies used by your local fire, police, and other government agencies.

For further assistance in selecting an appropriate scanner compatible with the radio frequencies in your area, contact us today at 1-800-SCANNER (1-800-722-6637).

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Journalists Monitor Police Scanner Frequencies for News Stories

Police ScannerDid you ever wonder how journalists and news agencies learn about breaking stories as they occur? Many newsworthy stories are obtained by journalists monitoring police scanner frequencies using scanner radios. They might learn about a fire at a local apartment complex, a break-in at a local business, or some other type of emergency. Police, fire, public works, and other government services use radio frequencies as a means of communications. These radio frequencies are normally not blocked, so anyone with a radio scanner can access the communications between dispatchers and the responding agencies.

Journalists listening to police scanner frequencies do need to confirm their stories for accuracy before releasing the information to the general public. Not all information is openly shared between dispatchers, police, fire, and other responders over police scanners. More sensitive details about the situation are typically communicated over other secure devices, such as inboard computers and cell phones.

For example, a journalist hears fire and ambulance services were dispatched to the home of the mayor. Unless other details are shared over the scanner radio, they have no other information to report until they can follow up on the story. The only information they could share on the evening news or in the local paper is that emergency responders were dispatched to the mayor’s home. Journalists need to be careful to avoid elaborating further on the story until they have obtained all of the facts.

Is It Beneficial for Journalists to Share Information from Police Scanner Frequencies?

There is some debate as to whether the information obtained from police scanner frequencies should be shared with the general public by journalists. Most local government agencies do not mind if communications are shared with the general public, as long as they are reported correctly without any conjecture. What they expect from journalists, as well as from others using police scanners in their homes, is to be responsible with the information obtained from scanner frequencies. Thanks to modern technologies and the Internet, information is shared at a faster speed today than it was in the past. Journalists and others can post status updates on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, as well as news web pages. Since information is easier to share, accurate reporting is essential in order to avoid creating wide-spread panic in local communities.

In addition to reporting on news pieces, journalists can use scanner radios to report details about weather emergencies, such as major snow storms, tropical storms, severe thunderstorms, and hurricanes. Sharing details about weather emergencies is beneficial for local government agencies. Journalists are able to assist police, fire, and other emergency responders in getting people off of streets, informing them to stay at home or go to their local shelters, as well as to share updates about the weather emergency.

If you are a journalist or want to monitor police frequencies at home, contact us to order your scanner or scanner package today, by calling 1-800-SCANNER (1-800-722-6637).

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Why People Use Police Scanners

scannerPolice scanners allow people to listen to communications of local police, fire, public works, and other agencies in their communities. The scanner is similar to a radio receiver, as it scans multiple frequencies and finds transmissions as they occur. Keep in mind, the radio scanner is a one-way receiver for monitoring two-way radio traffic, and it does not transmit. For example, your local dispatcher sends a communication to the fire department. Your fire scanner picks up the transmission and allows you to hear what the dispatcher is saying. When the fire department responds again, the scanner allows you to hear the response.

People use police scanners for various reasons. Some people are radio enthusiasts and enjoy listening to their scanners to find out what is going on within the local community. Off duty police officers, volunteer and off duty full time fire fighters, EMTs, and other professionals use scanners to be alerted to events going on locally, as well as in nearby communities. News agencies also use scanners to find out if there are any interesting activities going on which should be reported to the general public on the evening news broadcast or in the morning newspaper.

Why People Are Choosing Police Scanners over Police Scanner Apps

There are numerous police scanning apps for mobile devices and smart phones. However, the use of these apps may be illegal in many states whenever they are used outside of the home. On the other hand, it is perfectly legal to purchase, own, and operate police scanners inside your home. There are a few exceptions you should be aware of, depending on where you live. It is your responsibility to review your state’s laws in regards to scanner usage. For example, in certain states it is against the law to use a scanner in your vehicle. In most states it is illegal to use a scanner or scanner app while committing a crime.

Another reason people prefer scanners over apps is because they monitor a wider range of frequencies, including older analog transmissions. Many of the free apps you find online only monitor specific channel frequencies and digital transmissions, so you may only hear chatter from your local police department, but not pick up any traffic from fire departments, emergency responders, and other agencies in your location. If you want to know why the fire truck just drove past your home with its lights on, you need to use a real scanner instead of a mobile app.

One key benefit of using scanners is they operate independently and can be left on for as long as you want to listen. With a mobile app, you have to open the right one in order to monitor communications. If you receive a phone call, text message, or want to use a different app, you have to close the scanning app. Additionally, if your battery goes dead or you lose cellular service, the app stops working.

For more information about police scanners or assistance in choosing a model, contact us today at 1-800-SCANNER (1-800-722-6637).

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New Products – Radio Shack Scanners are back!

Radio Shack’s most popular models are back and now available again through Scanner Master as well as Radio Shack stores.  These include the high-end APCO-25 digital base and mobile scanners as well as the low-end analog radios. Call 1-800-SCANNER to order now or online anytime.

Basic Analog Conventional Scanners
Simple to program for those basic analog VHF/UHF communications

  • 200 Channel Handheld Scanner in 10 Banks
  • Analog Entry Level Scanner (no trunking or digital)RS_BasicPRO549-550
  • VHF and UHF Coverage – No 800 MHz
  • 5 One Touch Service Searches
  • PC Programmable

Radio Shack PRO-649
Handheld Police Scanner

Radio Shack PRO-650
Desktop Police Scanner


Digital Trunking Scanners
Sensitive, amazing digital decoding, simple menu structure

  • Store up to 1,800 frequenciesRS_BasicPRO651-652
  • Object-Oriented, Menu-driven programming
  • Signal Stalker II Near field frequency capture
  • Multi-Site Trunking Scanning

Radio Shack PRO-651
Digital Handheld Scanner

Radio Shack PRO-652
Digital Base/Mobile Scanner

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Show off your shack! – Derek Hirons mobile shack

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Derek Hirons of Worcester, MA
This is the setup in my GMC Sierra…
BCD996T scanner
Kenwood TK-8180 UHF mobile
Antennas mounted on the drivers side f my tool box.

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Show off your shack! – Colin Burt of Lowell, MA

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Colin Burt of Lowell, MA Scanner Shack
My shack consists of the following:

  • Radio Shack Realistic 7ch Weather Alert Radio
  • Radio Shack Realistic PRO-2022
  • Uniden Bearcat 8500XLT
  • Uniden Bearcat BCD996XT

Been in the hobby for 30 years and mainly monitor public safety.

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Show Off your shack! – Garry Luxton of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

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My home Shack:
I’m currently running a Pro2035, 2 x UBCD996T’s, Pro2096, UBC9000xlt, 3 x UBC780xlt’s, 3 x UBCD396T’s two of them are using Remote Heads, UBCD396XT, BC125AT, 2 x Motorola GP328’s, 3 x XTS5000’s, ADS-B and AIS

A little about myself:

  • Garry Luxton
  • Newcastle, NSW, Australia
  • I have been happily scanning since 1983
  • I mainly listen to Marine, Private Security Services, Surf Lifesaving, Traffic Management and also tune into emergency services
My website is

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