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10 Things I Learned from Listening to a Police Scanner

Have you ever heard sirens in your neighborhood and wondered what was going on? Curiosity got the best of me one night and I started looking for online police scanners for my neighborhood (check the best of 2019 here). I found several that broadcast the City of Pittsburgh Public Safety channel and after that, I was hooked. It’s better than any reality show you could ever watch and it can give you some insight into what exactly is going on in your neighborhood.

One thing that does scare me is the number of emergency calls that come into the call center that is based in my area. Over half of the calls are ‘silent’ meaning you don’t hear any sirens or alarms. Even though I am more aware of what is going on in my neighborhood I do have to admit, it has made me a little more paranoid.

Bars On A Friday Night: Could be a fight or domestic dispute, could be someone that locked themselves out of their vehicle. These calls could escalate quickly because any time alcohol is involved, people get real brave real quick. DUI and DWI calls are also things that can get nasty quickly. Most of these calls result in First Response and medic units being dispatched.

Microwaves Can Talk: One of the most bizarre calls for help came from a man that said his microwave was talking to him. It was a surprise gift from his kids and when he went to heat his soup it alerted him that his cook time had ended. He mistook what the unit said to him and thought the microwave was going to kill him.

Animal-Related Calls: A call came in from an older man swearing there was a bear in his back yard. It turns out he was wearing his wife’s glasses instead of his own and the bear in question was the neighbor’s dog. Sadly there are also a lot of calls to put animals down when they are injured and animal control is not available.

Laundromats Are Hotbeds of Activity: Whether it is a drunk that passes out on someone’s clean clothes or some perv stealing underwear, these calls can be a little amusing. Please see the CoinStar entry for more information. There was also a call about two individuals engaged in a romantic situation inside a laundry room; they were newlyweds that got a little carried away.

Stupid Criminals: The owner of a laundry facility called to report his machines were broken in to. Approximately $300.00 in quarters were reported stolen. It wasn’t hard to find the criminals. They went to a CoinStar machine five blocks away and started dumping the quarters into the machine from a pillowcase. What they didn’t realize is that the store requires anyone cashing in over a hundred dollars in change to show photo identification. I think you know how this ends.

Police Codes amp; Abbreviations: When I first started listening to police scanners to see what was going on in my neighborhood when I heard sirens I had no idea why they kept talking about “actors”. There are a lot of movies shot in this area and I kept thinking, “Damn, the movie sets are getting a lot of action”. I still get “code one” (acknowledge call) and “code four” (no assistance needed) confused.

Missing Children: Any time there is a report of a missing child any units in a five-mile radius respond immediately. Thankfully most of them turn out to be kids who stop at a friend’s house, decide to walk home or are at a relative’s house. These are some of the tensest moments but both the dispatchers and officers remain in control of their emotions.

The Escaped Criminal: A few days before Halloween several calls came in about a man in an orange jumpsuit with a gash in his head. It looked like a transport uniform that prisoners wear so officers were immediately dispatched. It turned out that it was a Halloween costume. Not exactly the best costume to pick to wear when strolling around the city.

Non-911 Emergency Calls: If there is one thing that irks me it’s non-emergency calls that are placed to 911 dispatch centers. These include someone blocking your driveway, reporting the mailman for delivering the mail late, suspected alien abduction, neighbors refusing to give back Tupperware containers and being locked out of your house.

Suspicious Items: At least once a day there is a call about a backpack, box or package left somewhere. These aren’t treated lightly and most of the calls come from Port Authority police. Thankfully almost all of them have turned out to be lost items or things that kids have accidentally forgotten to take with them. It is reassuring to know that the Pittsburgh Police and Port Authority officers have excellent and open lines of communication.

If you’re still not ready to get a police scanner and prefer playing with a mobile app instead – check our comparison here.

William

This article is written by William Johnson, the founder of RRD. William is passionate about radar detectors. His interest in reviewing and testing radar detectors from different brands started nearly 10 years ago, when his own radar detector then (a cheap and brand-less detector he bought online) failed to detect and radar gun nearby.
William

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