Police scanner frequencies include law enforcement, fire departments, and other public services. Finding the exact station you want might be confusing, though, and could lead to you missing out entirely on crucial transmissions.
We’ve been using scanners for years now, so we’ve put together a quick guide on everything you need to know about police scanner frequencies – including how to listen to them even without a police scanner device.
Table of Contents
How to find police scanner frequencies?
One way to find frequencies is by asking a retailer of police scanners. Local directories also help you find the information you need, since the frequency depends on which county or state you live in. But by far, the quickest and most accurate route is through the internet.
There are many tools online that can help you find scanner frequencies through states, metro areas, and zip codes. You can also search for trunked radio information like talk groups in your area. Still, we find that inputting your county or state on a website’s search function is the easiest way to do it.
If you want, there are apps for these too. Just enter your state, city, or county to get the results and listen to transmissions in your area.
What frequencies do scanners use?
A scanner radio uses several frequencies, and as mentioned, a common way to find them is by using a local directory. Here are some common ones:
- 46: This is the inter-department emergency frequency for communications by both local and state forces.
- 160: This frequency is open to all departments, facilitating inter-department emergency communication in times of search and rescue operations.
- 475: This is a more common frequency where many emergency communications of state and local officers happen.
There are many other frequencies especially depending on which area you live in. For instance, you’ll find many sets of frequencies in the state of Alabama. If you want to listen to Dallas County frequencies, you can tune in to:
- 80000: The sheriff dispatch, RM-type with WPUF523 license. It’s the Dallas SO 1.
- 50000: The Fire VFD dispatch, RM-type with KNAU435 license. It’s the line of the Dallas County Fire Department.
- Similarly, there are three more for Dallas County, and three more for Selma.
As you can see, each frequency has a license and many have tones as well (like 110.9 PL for the Dallas SO 1. These are all mostly FM or FMN.
Note that police scanners are devices that “scan” and not impose audio on airwaves themselves. That makes it tricky to say “what scanner frequencies do law enforcement officers use” because they’re simply listening in.
If you’re interested to know about object-oriented scanning and which models use it, see a short discussion on our Whistler TRX-1 review.
How do you program police frequencies?
Programming the frequencies for a scanner is pretty much building a functional superb scanner yourself. The first thing you need to do is identify the channels that you want to listen to in your area. Tuning is important as well – you don’t want to capture all the signals in your county.
Also, you can only listen to local area frequencies because scanners utilize radio waves. Once you have searched the area (again, many online sources help you find frequencies by state, city, metro area, zip code, etc.), you need to select the frequency you want to listen to. This is the main part of programming, and we’ll get to it in a bit.
First make sure that the scanner is plugged in and connect the antenna to it. Then, find the programming button on your device. “Prog” or “PGM” are usual labels of the programming button. Press (or press and hold, depending on what the user guide says). Channel programming will then be enabled, and you’ll know this when a “CH” flashes on the display.
After that, now is the time to input the channel number. This is where your frequencies will be stored, and you can also organize it in whatever way you want. To keep it simple, you can assign one channel for police, one for fire, another for emergency services, and so on.
Once you’ve put in the channel number, you can now enter the actual frequency number to start your search. This is a five- or six-digit number with a decimal point, and that’s something you should note as well.
For instance, the frequency number for the Skywarn District in East Tennessee is 145.470. In that case, you want to press “1-4-5-decimal point-4-7-0”.
Once that’s done, just press enter and you are good to go.
Can you get in trouble listening to police frequencies?
In the United States, different jurisdictions have different laws. Police scanners are generally allowed, but the use of a scanner to search for frequencies is restricted in five states if you’re on an automobile.
If you’re in another country, you will have different laws about police scanners as well. For example, in Canada, it’s legal to install and use any kind of radio that can receive the broadcast – except for private information. In Australia, if a transmission is not “telecommunication,” you can have a scanner and listen to every channel in your local area.
For your safety, please check your state laws to know specific information. However, know that it’s always a federal crime to listen to phone calls, regardless of what area you’re in.
If you don’t have a physical scanner, you can also use a smartphone app that acts as a normal scanner. Read our comparison of the best ones here: https://www.ratedradardetector.org/police-scanner/best-app/
How can you listen to police frequencies?
You can listen to police frequencies simply by programming your scanner. You just need to look for the specific frequency or frequencies that you want to listen to in your local area. For that, you just need to use the internet, directories, or the retailer’s database.
If you have all your frequencies listed, simply program those frequencies in your scanner with the steps we’ve discussed above. Once that’s done, you can now listen to communications across your state in frequencies like fire, EMS, and aviation.
To make your listening experience smooth and static-free, make sure you also got a proper antenna installed in your scanner. Your scanner’s factory antenna might not do the job, so we’ve also listed the best police scanner antennas for you.
If you don’t want to use a scanner or if you don’t have a scanner right now, there are also many websites that feature live audio. It’s probably not real-time, as there might be a lag between the signal reception, conversion to web audio, and live uploading – which the server might limit if there are too many requests.
How to hack police frequencies?
This is not illegal. You can hack frequencies using devices other than scanners. When you do that, these devices then become police scanners themselves – it’s as simple as that.
Imagine listening to a police radio frequency in your area about local crime on your scanner. It’s legal and it’s simple. Now, what if you don’t have a police scanner radio to listen to these frequencies?
Fortunately, you can use other devices to hack into the spectrum beyond FM. What you have is a radio that you built yourself. An additional perk is it might double as something else too, like a simple calculator.
If this is something you want to try, all you need to do is explore the VHF and UHF bands. This will enable you to listen to coded audio data. You can then decode these audio signals and effectively make out what the police are saying about crime in your local area.