Oddball hobbies: How to become a police scanner hobbyist
Aug 1, 2012, 8:29 a.m.
Did the police or EMT's just pull into your subdivision? Do you wish you knew what's going on? What the emergency is all about? Now you can find out and, depending upon how you decide to become a police scanning hobbyist, you might be able to do it for free.
The radio frequency spectrum is divided into hundreds of "bands." There's an AM radio band, an FM radio band, television broadcast bands and almost countless others. Some of the so-called "short wave" bands allow broadcasters to send their voices and programming literally around the world. Other bands can only be received over a short distance. Police radio bands across the U.S. are split into about ten bands that range from a so-called VHF (very high frequency) band to an UHF (ultra high frequency) band. Transmissions over these police frequencies are generally limited to a limited geographical area.
Today it's easy to run down to your local electronics store and pick up a frequency scanning radio that's able to tune into all the police bands automatically. As the radio scans each band it stops when it picks up a transmission. That makes it easy to keep up with local police, fire and emergency events as they are happening.
Even more remarkable, there are "apps" for your smartphone that make the police scanner radio almost obsolete. Check out the Scanner 911 application. Download it to your iPhone for a couple bucks and listen to police, fire and emergency services nationwide. Don't have an iPhone? Don't worry. The Police Scanner app for Android phones is free and lets you hear reports in real time from all across the U.S. as well as Canada, the UK, Austria, Chile, Germany, Italy, Japan and more countries being added each month.
All this listening-in is a problem for police departments though. Many locales from Florida to New York to California are switching to encrypted radio transmissions. They're afraid that criminals having such easy access to their communication can compromise public safety.
So if you'd like to become a police scanner pro, jump in before encryption becomes the rule rather than the exception.
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