If you want to listen to a police radio scanner by frequency, you’ll obviously need to have some sort of idea about the frequencies you can be tuning into. On this page, we’re going to run you through a few methods that you can use to find the right frequencies to go through!
You Do Not Need to Scan Channels!
We know that this is going to be obvious to some people. However, it will surprise you how many people pick up a police radio scanner thinking that the only option is to constantly scan through radio channels i.e. your radio is forever flicking between a couple of different channels. Most of the time, particularly if you’re in a particularly busy area, setting your scanner up like this can be annoying.
Nine times out of ten, broadcasts on a specific frequency are all that will interest you. Why would you want to scan through several channels that you don’t care about? You’re just going to end up hearing a lot of radio chatter that ends up leaving you confused.
You may need to read through the manual which came with your radio scanner to find out how to do it. Any radio scanner worth its salt will allow you to hone in on one specific channel.
Your Radio Scanner Can Likely Be Updated
This is something that really only applies to modern radio scanners.
If you purchase a radio scanner in the United States, and it has been released in the past couple of years, then the chances are pretty high that it’ll have an SD card in it. This SD card has a ‘channel list’ on it. The SD card is there to essentially tell the radio scanner ‘hey, if you’re in this area, these are the channels to scan!”.
Of course, to get the right information, the radio scanner will need to know where you are. They will either ask you to input your ZIP code. If you’ve got something fancy, then the location will be automatically detected via GPS.
Updatable by Software
Every so often, you’ll need to hook your radio scanner up to your computer. It’ll then be able to update the channel list for you. Although, do bear in mind that this is something that will only happen with a top manufacturer. If you’ve purchased a cheaper scanner, then you may need to hunt around radio enthusiast forums to see if anybody can provide you with an up-to-date channel list in a format that you can use.
Once the channel list is up to date, you should be able to manually jump from channel to channel before you settle on one that you like.
Remember; most police radio scanners on the market allow you to add your own channels too. There may be some included software with your scanner, so use that. It can be tricky to get to grips with at the start. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll be adding new channels to scan like an absolute pro. You will have so many more listening options like this.
Use the Internet for Your Radio Scanner Research
Aren’t you lucky? You’re using radios in an age where you don’t actually have to do much to find channel numbers. It wasn’t 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. It’s a massive database. Obviously, you won’t 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 can’t 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 don’t 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.
I Know the Frequency! I Am Done Now, Right?
For the time being, yes. However, each radio frequency may not be permanent. For a variety of reasons, police departments will often switch between various frequencies throughout the year. So a frequency which you discovered today may not necessarily work next week. Yep. The emergency services want to make it as difficult as possible for you to listen to their communications. (Yeah. They likely have a reason for it, but it can be annoying at times of us enthusiasts).
Remember that there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ frequency. Different police departments will have their own radio channels. You may get lucky and see a bit of overlap, but then again, you probably won’t. This is why it’s so useful to have a radio scanner that can be updated and allows you to input your location. It means that you really do not need to put in that much effort.
Don’t have a radio scanner? Well, we’ve got you covered. We have put together a ton of reviews for what we believe are some of the best radio scanners on the market, so why not have a peek? There will be more than one that catches your interest, we promise you.