If you have a police radio scanner, you probably want to start listening in on police broadcasts as soon as possible, right? Now, if you are lucky, you can just switch on your device and it will find the right frequencies for you. If not, you may need to discover the local police scanner channels yourself.
On this page, we are going to walk you through how you can discover police channels in your local area, as well as give you a bit of an idea about what may be wrong if you are not able to pick up any signal.
It is important to remember that radio frequencies differ across the country. In fact, the next town over may be using a completely different radio frequency. This means that we can’t just say “tune into this channel”, because that may not work for your area.
Getting Started with Local Police Scanner Channels
Nowadays, if you’re just getting started, we do not recommend using an analog radio scanner. They are cheap, but they are becoming used less and less. There are still some police and local municipalities that broadcast on analog frequencies, but it’s constantly fading. The bulk of transmissions today are digital, and require a digital police scanner to listen in.
Do You Have a Radio Antenna?
Your police radio scanner likely came with a basic antenna. If you’re not getting the range you had hoped for, fear not. It can sometimes be as simple as picking up a new antenna. A higher quality antenna will only help to increase audio quality, as well as the range that your radio scanner is able to receive transmissions from.
If you are not picking up any radio signals, and you have a digital radio scanner, the best place to start is the antenna.
Where Are You Located?
Oddly enough, we’re seeing that police departments are using private frequencies from time to time. This means that you will never be able to listen in on their communications, if this is the case. If you are planning on buying a police radio scanner, then you may want to look up the frequencies for your local area on a site like RadioReference.com to get a feel for how much is going to be ‘private’.
That being said, there’s the huge disadvantage of not being able to have the local community be able to listen along with what’s happening. Passionate radio ethusiasts have fought police departments that plan to switch to private communication channels. One of the main reasons they keep their channels public (most of the time), is because they want to ensure that they are completely open to the public. After all, if you are paying your taxes to run their department, then they should be held accountable to you.
Police forces have also stated that having open channels makes communication across the force a whole lot easier. If you have locked-off frequencies, then you could run into all sorts of issues, and this can have a major impact on operations.
Emergency Communication Channels Can Change
It is important to note that there are some police departments that do not keep the same radio frequencies throughout the year. Of course many will. I can only guess as to the reason, but it does seem that some police departments would prefer fewer folks listening in. Changing the channel discourages folks from listening in who might not be familiar with finding the latest frequency.
Finding Local Police Scanner Channels
If your radio scanner worked at some point, but now it is magically not picking up the same channels that it did in the past, then chances are that the frequencies have changed and you may need to update your channel listing. Thankfully, this should be fairly easy to do, no matter what police scanner you have. Here we’re doing to share the top 3 ways to lock in your local police scanner channels.
1. Automatic Updates Using Software
If you are lucky, you will have an SD card with a channel list inside of your radio scanner. There may also be a GPS built into the device too. This means that your scanner will be able to serve up the right channels for wherever you are located.
But, what happens when the frequency changes? Well, this is where the magic happens. Most of these scanners can have their channel list updated. Each month or so (sometimes more frequently than that), the manufacturer will release an ‘updated’ channel list. This way, if the local radio frequencies have changed your scanner will know. Just follow the instructions in your manual and the process should be pretty quick, although do bear in mind that you will need a computer to be able to update the scanner.
Unfortunately we realize there are cases where you may not be able to automatically update your scanner. Perhaps it’s an older model that doesn’t have this feature or the vendor simply doesn’t know about the frequency you’re after. Not to worry, there’s still 2 more methods you can try to track down the exact channels that you want to scan using one of the following two methods.
2. Using the ‘Scan’ or Zip Code Feature
In some cases, your radio scanner may be programmed with an extensive channel list. Some of these may be ’empty’ channels, but they will exist. In the old days, it was the norm to manually scan the radio channels and make a note of the frequencies. You can do that still do that if you want. However, nowadays, you probably don’t want to waste your time on that. You have plenty of other options available.
Some police radio scanners come with pre-loaded database and depending on how recently it was updated, may contain the frequencies you’re looking for. To use this feature, most often the various channels will be filterable by zip code. So after inputting your zip code, you simply select the frequencies you’d like to listen in on.
3. Use an Online Resource
If all else fails, then you can hop on an online resource that will tell you local police scanner channels. There are plenty of them out there, but our favorite is by far – RadioReference.com. This is because it is the largest online platform for radio frequencies, and you can bet your bottom dollar that if police or other emergency service department changes the frequency that they broadcast on, this site will be updated within a day or so.