The standard tool for crime reporters everywhere, police scanners offer a glimpse into the world of law enforcement for people on the outside looking in. Whether it’s a 187 (murder), a 211 (robbery), a 245 (assault with a deadly weapon), or a 311 (exposing your bits to the public), listening to a real police scanner can sometimes be more interesting than watching yet another Law & Order episode on TV.
In the US (where the vast majority of online scanners are available), it is legal to listen to these scanners, provided you are not committing a crime at the time. Also, you must not get all super-hero involved in the incident and let the criminal(s) get away in the process. So keep your Kick Ass suit in the closet and instead stick to listening to these 5 sources of police scanner streams.
TuneIn has some particularly good ones to listen to. I particularly like the NYPD’s Special Operations Division and Traffic. You can also rely on the Chicago scanner to get the latest on shootings. As I write this, loud gunshots have been reported in Chicago, and “everyone is panicking”.
TuneIn will try and get you to sign up with Facebook or Google+. But if you don’t want to do that, you can just close the box. The streams will still work, even though you haven’t signed up. Connecting to the stream will take a few moments, but it starts eventually.
This one is heavily slanted towards fire departments, but there are also police departments if you do a bit more browsing. Plus, they are more focused on tiny out-of-the-way places (Pottawatomie in Oklahoma?). So because they are looking at small places, the feed may either be silent or full of static. But then it might suddenly burst with “the cat is up the tree! Let’s lock and load people!”.
What is also nice about Broadcastify is that it lets you choose the web player, or players such as Windows Media Player, Real Player, iTunes, or Winamp.
Emergency Radio Free (iOS)
Now for a look at the mobile apps, for the ambulance chaser lawyers, and the intrepid crime reporters. The first one is for iOS, and I had this on my phone for a long time.
From the screenshot, you can see on the map where all of the scanner streams are. Or your phone’s GPS will find streams in your immediate vicinity. The app gives you thousands of streams from the police, fire, EMS, railroad, air traffic, train, NOAA weather, coast guard, HAM radio, and more.
Police Scanner (Android)
And now one for our Android friends. Police Scanner (a lot of thought went into the name as you can see) gives you more than 3,000 streams to choose from, including fire, EMS, public safety, and more police departments than you can shake a smartphone at.
It requires Android 2.3 at least, and has a very respectable rating of 3.8 out of 5.
Apparently some people do have Windows Phones, so it would be remiss of me not to mention a WP option.
This one is also called Police Scanner. I mean, come on, can’t these developers come up with another title? How about Cops On Patrol? Lock & Load? Or simply COPS? Anyway, I digress.
The download page provides no information on how many feeds there are, but we can tell some stuff from the screenshots. First, this one is international which is great (check your local laws about police scanners though — it might not be as liberal as the US). Second, each country is broken down into states and areas, and air traffic control is included. Don’t be getting any ideas now.
Do You Tune-In To The Chatter?
So, now it’s your turn. Which online sources of police scanners do you listen to? Do you think we should be listening to them, or should it be encrypted for police’s ears only? Is it unethical for example, to use them to listen out for speed traps? Over to you, folks.
Image Credits: Police officer Via Shutterstock