Would you like to know when the police put out an APB (all-points bulletin) for your arrest? Just kidding! Police scanners are for much more than listening to police communications and dispatches. They’re as handy as a radar detector
. When most people hear about police scanners, they usually assume it’s illegal for everyday folk to own one. This is far from the truth. The restrictions are against listening to cell phone conversations and encrypted communications and listening to get information that will aid in a crime or financial gain. Some states also do not allow listening on a police scanner while driving. Apart from these, there are many other uses it can be put to, which is why many people own them.
In an emergency, having a police scanner can help you get access to information as it breaks. This is usually before it’s broadcast in the mass media. Owning a police scanner can also provide informative and entertaining insights into your city. You can listen to real-time news on local crimes, traffic accidents, fire, domestic disturbances, air traffic control, the national weather service and more.
There are three basic configurations of police scanners. We shall list them as well as their advantages and disadvantages.
The first is the handheld configuration. The advantages of this kind of scanner are its portability, and the fact that running on batteries makes it immune to power outages. The disadvantages, however, are that it has a poorer range and reception than other configurations. It’s also more prone to accidental damage and has a lower volume.
The next is the desktop scanner. The advantage of this is that it has a stronger reception and range than the handheld. It also has a louder volume. The disadvantage of this type is that it is not portable and has to operate from a fixed position, usually connected to the house’s power source. This also makes it susceptible to power outages.
Finally, we have the base/mobile. This has a better sound, reception and range than the handheld. It can run on the house’s power supply or that of a car. This means it can be mounted in the car. Reception can also be improved with an external antenna. The disadvantage are that it’s not portable, may require additional accessories to mount it in a car and may also require a mobile scanner antenna when used in a car.
One very important step you need to take before choosing a scanner is finding out the frequency of the agency or agencies you want to listen to in your area. Knowing the frequency will help you get the right scanner. You also need to check to know if they are transmitting on analog or digital mode. This will also determine what you will get.
There are features you may need and those you may not need. Also, think about required accessories – such as external speakers
or a good pair of headphones
– and whether they’re necessary for your setup.
Based on our research, you can get a good police scanner for anywhere from $50 to $400. With such a broad range, you should expect some scanners will have more features than others. While we’ve ensured the scanners we selected will offer good value for the money, remember the more expensive scanners will have more features. We have not included the cheapest scanners, where poor build quality and lack of essential elements made them a false economy.
Digital scanners will cost more than analog scanners. Other factors include: number of channels, sensitivity, computer compatibility, mode and step selection and more. If you want these features, then be ready to pay more.
When choosing a police scanner, there are a number of factors to consider. You need to decide which features are important to you and which are not. These are some of the features to consider:
- Configuration – Handheld, desktop or base/mobile
- Mode – Analog or digital
- Frequency coverage – scanners cover different frequencies. You need the frequencies you want to listen to.
- Type – trunk tracking or conventional
- No of channels to determine to number of agencies you can listen to
- Search mode to be able to search for unpublished or unlicensed frequencies
- Service search – for quickly locating frequencies and services
- Alpha tags – for identifying channels and agencies
- Mode and step selection – for automatic selection of frequency modes
- Sensitivity – the higher the sensitivity, the easier you can listen to even weak signals
- Computer compatibility – to fully control your scanner from a computer
Construction and Design
We mentioned 3 configurations of police scanners. If you are going for the base/mobile and would want to use it in your car, you need to be sure you can easily do so. It may have to be dashboard mounted and you may need to get a mobile scanner antenna for it.
You also want to get something that is sturdily built, especially if you are getting a handheld scanner. You also need to determine the number of channels you will need so you can get one with enough channels to meet your requirements.
Sometimes, you may want to punch in an exact frequency. Having a scanner with a keypad will make this possible so you don’t have to scan if you know frequency. At other times, you may not know what you are looking for or may want to find unpublished or unlicensed channels. Having a scanner with a search mode feature will make this possible.
Performance and Ease of Use
There are a few functions that will make the use of your police scanner easier. One is a lockout button which allows you stipulate some channels your scanner won’t halt on. This saves you time when scanning. Another is sensitivity which makes it possible for you to listen to channels even when their transmission is weak.
Some scanners are compatible with your computer, from where you can control it. Some users will find this more efficient. If you are getting a handheld scanner, be sure it has a good battery life so you don’t have to recharge or change batteries often.
Are you just interested in monitoring local emergencies? Then your requirements will be different from someone who wants to scan thousands of frequencies. Now you’ve gone through our buying guide above, look at the products featured below and see which one gives you the capabilities important for your goals. That will be the best brand/product for you.
Now you’ve read our reviews, we hope you have enough information to buy the right police scanner. Start monitoring channels effectively. Pick your preferred model now.