Traveling to an unfamiliar city or area, do you feel a bit anxious? You love to stay informed about your surroundings. But you don’t know the city, nor do you know anyone there.
Using the best police scanners, you can have all the news you need. From tapping into the local police frequencies to knowing about the weather and the traffic, everything.
The best part, you don’t have to wait for the news to hear it first, you get the news right when it happens.
Feeling interested? Then check out this top radio scanners list I’ve got here.
Table of Contents
- Best Police Scanner – Reviews
- 1. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Police Scanner
- 2. Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300-Channel Base/Mobile Scanner
- 3. Uniden SR30C Bearcat Compact Handheld Scanner
- 4. Uniden HomePatrol-2 Touchscreen Simple Program Digital Scanner
- 5. Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner
- 6. Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
- 7. Uniden BCT15X BearTracker Base/Mobile Police Scanner
- 8. Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner
- What is a police scanner?
Best Police Scanner – Reviews
Go to the market to find the best radio scanners. You’ll be bombarded with so many options. Some good, some bad, some just throwing money down the drain.
If you don’t want to make any mistake in your choice. Be safe and go with the top options below.
1. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Police Scanner
To find all the civilian and military bands in your area, get the Uniden BC125AT.
The handheld Bearcat got some pretty exciting features to offer.
Right on top is its frequency range. Here, you get over 40000 signals to work through. So, tuning into police, ambulance or any other agency channels won’t be that hard. The best part, you get 500 alpha-tags. Now, you can name channels to know what you are listening to at the time—no need to be confused.
And to make things even simpler, the unit comes with storage banks. You can now divide those 500 channels into the 10 storage banks. Put a list of channels to find them faster using it. Plus, you’ve got the pre-sets to save channels you love.
On top of all that, some other features are there. One that you will love is the close call RF capture that lets the device tune into the closest transmissions. Don’t want that, then simply use the do not disturb mode—no more close call checks.
- Over 40000 frequencies.
- Listen to both civilian and military bands.
- Offers 500 alpha-tags.
- Comes with 10 storage banks.
- Portable and lightweight design.
- Large backlit display.
- Orange backlit screen is easy to read.
- Free software available online.
2. Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300-Channel Base/Mobile Scanner
Looking for an entry-level mobile scanner for the car, then you can try the Uniden BC355N model.
Just like the handheld bearcat, the mobile police scanner got quite similar features.
But before heading towards its traits, you’ve to praise its design. It has a nice display and buttons all over it that are easy to read. There is no room for confusion.
On the mobile scanner, you get 6 service banks. So, keep the channels you want to scan in a list to scan through them quicker.
Like the earlier model, it has a close call RF feature. This one also picks up the transmission. But with a 100 channel scan speed per second, it doesn’t take long to find the active channels.
Here, you can save up to 300 frequencies. That’s enough favorite channels of yours that you can keep categorized.
I love the fact, the unit runs using both an AC adapter and DC power cable. So, you can use it as a mobile station or desk station depending on your needs.
However, this starter model works with analog transmission, so if you want to monitor digital or trunking signals, it might not be the ideal choice.
- Store up to 300 channels
- Lockout frequencies.
- Covers action bands like fire service, police, weather, and more.
- Has close call RF capture technology
- Comes with the Do-no-Disturb feature.
- Monitors analog signals
- 100 ch/sec scan speed
- Offers 6 storage bands.
3. Uniden SR30C Bearcat Compact Handheld Scanner
The BC125AT is great but maybe a bit bigger than you imagined. For a more compact alternative, try out the SR30C Bearcat from Uniden.
So, again a Uniden product. Some features, therefore, are the same as you don’t expect them to ditch the good things.
If you compare it with the other best handheld police scanner, it has fewer frequencies to listen to. 32000 channels, 8000 less than the other Bearcat. But it has the delay function under its sleeve to cover up for that.
In two-way communication, most of the time we miss replies. But the delay feature will help you prevent that. Plus, its triple-conversion design is not that ordinary after all.
The LCD screen on the device is dimmable which is a nice touch by Uniden. No need to worry about the bright light making you blind at night. Alongside all that, this unit runs on a rechargeable battery. But if it’s out of power, get some AA cells and get it running.
With access to all the military bands you want to listen to and feature like RF, memory, and other functions in place, the compact Uniden is a device worth the try.
- Has 500 channels.
- Over 32000 frequencies
- Got 10 service banks.
- Listen to the police, fire department, weather reports, and other services.
- Allows PC programming
- Provides close call RF capture.
- Has priority scan function
- Store frequencies in backup memory
4. Uniden HomePatrol-2 Touchscreen Simple Program Digital Scanner
Digital scanners are getting more popular by the day. So, why not go for a digital option like the Uniden HomePatrol-2.
When you look at the scanner radio, it looks more like an AM/FM radio. But there are no buttons. It is a touch screen device. So, a large screen takes place on it.
Like others, setting up the scanner doesn’t take much work. Just enter the zip code, it does the rest: finding frequencies in your area. Then there is the GPS that pinpoints where you are and finds channels based on your location.
But there is more to it.
Here, you can connect to your car speaker to get better sound quality to listen to. And by the way, it lets you record transmissions. Don’t miss any messages. Even it saves the NOAA alerts. For some reason, if you miss any major weather updates, you will get it thanks to it.
Plus, to make searching through channels fast, it allows you to turn off channels you don’t want to hear and much more.
- Easy setup through zip code
- Receives unencrypted, non-proprietary radio systems.
- Has GPS compatibility
- Comes with a flex antenna
- Runs using NiMH rechargeable batteries
- Includes a desk stand
- Comes with an instruction guide
5. Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner
Using the scanner radio isn’t the biggest challenge. Setting it up to use it is the hardest thing to do. To make that hard work a piece of the cake comes Whistler.
It’s the WS1065 desktop digital scanner.
The first thing you notice is how easy it is to program. You’ll get context-sensitive help that gives you a few lines to program it. Getting it up and running for scanning doesn’t take much time.
That aside, you get a scan list feature on the unit. Now, you can arrange frequencies in groups. That way, you can scan for particular channels faster.
No worries if the battery fails you. With backup memory, it stores frequencies in memory. Therefore, no need to set up the frequencies every single time it runs out of power.
What’s impressive about the unit is its free-form memory organization. In a typical scanner, you get rigid memory banks that waste space rather than utilizing it. This uses dynamic allocation to make the best use of space.
And when it comes to listening to the military bands, it won’t let you down. Plus, it offers multi-system trunking.
- Offers an easy to use object-oriented user interface
- Context-Sensitive Help
- Scan List
- V-Scanner Technology
- Save complete backup radio configurations, up to 21 versions.
- Storm Spotter Function
- Gives more than 1800 frequencies
- Digital AGC to compensate for low audio
- Has Multi-System Trunking
6. Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
Want a handheld Whistler, no worries, I’ve got that too. Here, I present the TRX-1. A portable option to carry around with you.
At first glance, it has a simple look that isn’t at all inspiring. But the build quality will stun you, there is no doubt about it.
Like many of the others, it picks up the closet transmission for you to listen to. To get it up and running for use, there isn’t much work to do. Similar to the mobile Uniden, it uses Zipcode programming.
The best part is that you can update the unit’s firmware without any hassle using the internet.
With the digital scanner, you can decode radio ID. Not only that, but you can also even detect and mask encrypted voice audio too.
On the unit, you will find many buttons. But the dedicated weather report one is something that makes it quite handy when in case of bad weather conditions.
Overall, whether to transmit and talk or just listening to the local public agencies, the radio works like a dream.
- Functional keypad
- Easy viewing with backlit LCD
- USA/Canada Radio Reference database on SD Card
- Has a quick Location-based programming
- Detects and masks encrypted voice audio
- Helps to decode Radio ID/Talkgroup ID data
- Uses USB Interface 2.0 or earlier
- Dedicated NOAA button
7. Uniden BCT15X BearTracker Base/Mobile Police Scanner
Do you need a mobile unit? Then take the Beartracker BCT15X. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
What’s so special about it?
What not to like about it? On the unit, you get 9000 channels. With an advanced dynamic memory system, it makes the best use of the space. And features like RF capture and more, there is nothing that the police scanner can’t do.
You can even use the BC-RH96 remote head with it.
But to make it even more interesting, the unit has something called the TrunkTracker III technology. Thanks to it, you can now be in touch with Motorola, EDACS, and LTR systems.
And setting this unit doesn’t take any work. That’s because it has a GPS receiver that lets you scan channels based on your location. And you got those state-by-state pre-programmed channels to find the police and other actions that you seek for with the device.
It got so much cool stuff going.
- Has 9000 dynamically allocated channels
- A.M.E weather alert
- Offers TrunkTracker III technology.
- Get 100 system quick keys
- Offers 10-channel group
- Provides alpha tagging
- Has an individual channel volume offset
8. Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner
Man! This base/mobile unit from Uniden got so many features that you might lose track of them.
But let’s try to focus on the key ones at least.
As it is a Uniden scanner radio, you can by now expect what to get. That’s right! Close call RF capture is there. And the number of channels it offers is also impressive: 25000.
But scanning through all of them might take a lot of time. Not really! With the temporary lockout, you can avoid channels that you don’t want to listen to.
Other than that, you got the typical stuff. Channel number tagging, location-based scanning, and GPS to name a few. Plus, the S.A.M.E feature is a must in such a device.
The exception is the DCS/CTCSS rapid decoding in the unit. This one can detect and display a sub-audible tone that many can’t do.
- Has TrunkTracker V technology.
- 25000 dynamically allocated channels.
- 25MHz to 1.3GHz Excluding UHF TV and Cellular.
- Has location alerts
- Backlit keypad
- Backlit LCD screen
- 16 character text tagging
- 12 Service searches
- Multi-site system support
- PC programming and control
What is a police scanner?
You don’t have to know about the technical details to realize what a portable police scanner is. It’s just a scanning radio that works like most others but with the benefit of tuning into local law enforcement.
From police to fire services to a variety of emergency services, you can tune into them and get instant news about the things happening around you. That’s it.
But don’t think a police radio scanner is all about that. Yes, you can listen to public safety services, but you can use it as a regular two-way radio too. So, use it to communicate with friends or just for fun. There is a lot you can do with it.
Types of police scanners?
You might have seen police using radios from their car. Maybe you were fortunate or unfortunate enough to see some handheld devices from close-up.
Either way, you already have some idea that there is more than one variant of the best digital police scanner. Some they can carry around, some stay fixed in the vehicle. So, knowing about them is a must. Especially, if you’re planning to get one for yourself.
Ok, let’s find out.
1. Handheld/portable police scanner:
This is the most common type scanner that you might see law enforcement to carry around on their chest pocket or clipped to the belt.
The difference is obvious, it’s small and portable.
Just like your smartphones, you can carry it around with you anywhere. But the range it offers is limited.
2. Stationed/ mobile police scanner:
Now, the mobile police scanner is the one that you see on the car’s dashboard. And just by the look of it, you can see how it varies from the other.
You get a box-like device and a wired mouthpiece on them. The best part about them is that they have much more power and range to offer. You can expect to get better reception with them. Just have to give up the portability for that.
3. Desktop police scanner:
There isn’t much to imagine. It’s a large unit, with more power and range to communicate. Simple!
Don’t expect to take it with you.
How to use a police scanner?
If you think you can get a police scanner and start using right out of the box, then you’re wrong. There is a bit of waiting to do as you’ve got to fix a couple of things before you start listening to the local public services.
I will guide you to show how easy it is to do. Let’s get it going then.
In the first step, you’ve got to go and get the software.
- For example, if you’re using any of the Uniden, visit their website and download the scanner software that supports the device you use.
- Download that software on your laptop and set it up before moving to the next phase.
Now, comes the part when you connect your scanner with the laptop.
- To do that, simply find the USB port in the scanner device and enter the cable that connects it to your laptop.
- When you’re using a device right out of the box, you will have to set the time first. Then on your radio scanners, you will enter the mass storage mode.
- After that, just go to the software, go to updates, and just click on update firmware. A box will open up, where you will find the model you’re using.
- When the box closes down on your laptop window, just take the radio scanner and hit the power button on the device. That’s it.
This is the most crucial part. It’s time to program the scanner for your area.
- First, create what you’re going to do. And then create your favorite list. On the software, you will find your state, and inside that, you will find all the areas in your state.
- Click on a state, right beside, all the frequencies around will pop up. Select all or choose the ones you want and import them to your favorite list.
- You will find all types of frequencies there. For business, airport, and all the public services in your area. Dump the frequencies you need to your favorite list to use. That’s all.
Benefits of using police scanners:
I believe, finding the benefit of the scanner depends on the individual. The best car police scanner might work for you in one way for others it has a completely different use.
Whatever the case might be? Let’s try to take a look at what perks it adds in your daily life.
- To know a person’s true identity, make them sit through a long traffic jam. You will see their temper and unexplainable road rages in such moments. If you don’t want to see yourself in such a situation, having a mobile police scanner in the car is a must. That’s because you can tune into the emergency frequency and know about such traffic before the news or google maps ever tell you. Save time and spare people from your rage.
- For criminal investigators, having the ability to monitor such frequency can be a real game-changer. They can collect evidence fast with the help of the portable police scanner.
- In the same way, journalists can use the device to get their breaking news for the web portal or their channel with details to get a head start.
- And if you don’t want to get into the serious business and just want to chill, do that. Using the digital trunking police scanner, you can use it like a CB radio to connect with strangers and have a quick talk with them. Or just listen to transmissions for fun.
You can sit and make a list yourself and find various uses of the desktop police scanner. But what you want to do with it is what matters.
Analog vs Digital police scanners:
By now you know how the police scanner works. You know how it uses the pre-programmed channels to pick up the transmission to let you listen to public services. But what’s the key difference between the two, that’s a question you must have had. No doubt!
To know, keep on reading.
Analog police scanners:
The analog police scanner picks up the analog transmission. By that I mean, the transmissions that aren’t secure. You can just tune into those frequencies and listen to everything going on there. Simple and fast.
Digital police scanners:
Then comes your most advanced digital police scanners that are becoming popular by each passing day. That’s because they offer a clear sound and a better range. Great! But there is a catch. Police and other services like such are moving to them because of their transmission protocols.
In the digital devices, the dispatches sent towards can only be heard by authorized persons as they have encryption on them. No one can eavesdrop whenever they wish to like in the analog ones. And they pick up analog, digital, trunked signals, you name it.
How to extend the range of a radio scanner?
It is a quite common query. Maybe the device you bought doesn’t have a long-range, or you just want to improve your already superior reach to the next level. The cases might be different, the question is the same: How to extend the range?
No worries, all you need to do is follow the AA plan. Confused! Then keep on reading.
One of the sure-shot ways to improve the range of your cheap police scanner is to get a new antenna.
That works in most cases as the built-in that comes with the devices most of the time isn’t the best.
So, go out and look for a better option. You will find many in the market that will offer better reception than what you’re already getting.
And if you’re using a desktop police antenna, find the best external antenna to mount at the top of your car or the window out of your room where you set up the device.
Another way to improve the range is to get an amplifier. Looking at its name, you can imagine what it does. Yes, that right, amplifies. It takes the weak signal and amplifies it to make sure you get a better range.
But this one comes with a caveat and that is, the noise and static will also increase. That’s a downside of using an amplifier. However, if you combine both the antenna and amplifier, you can improve the scanner reception quality to great extent.
Best Police Scanners Buying Guide
Ok, you’ve checked the police scanner reviews and also got to know some other information about them. Great!
Maybe now, you want to do some digging on your own to find some other options.
The only obstacle in your way, you’re still not aware of the features to look for in the device.
That’s not a reason to stop your quest. Just go through the buying guide, and you will get a clear idea of what to look for in the market.
Number of channels:
The more channels you’ve got, the more local agencies you can follow. So, if you’ve got 20 channels, you’ve got 20 different frequencies to follow. Simple math.
For listening to transmissions for B&E in your area or just the next train schedule at the nearest station, those many channels may or may not be enough. It depends on you.
But a great rule of thumb is, the more the merrier.
Finding a scanner radio with a great range is something you can’t ignore. There are many models that on paper give you exceptional range, but in reality, they fail big time.
That’s because the surrounding matters that many of them don’t seem to count.
So, get a device that can offer a good range even if there are too many obstacles around it. That way, you can manage to get life-saving updates when it matters the most.
And if you need to improve the range, that you can also do. Use the AA technique that we’ve talked about before.
It is a gem of a feature that you should opt for in your radio scanner. With the trunking system at your disposal, you can tune into a huge number of agencies without needing to look into various frequencies.
This feature allows you to get to the channels you want to listen to with just 2-3 frequencies. When there is a congested signal in an area, the system takes advantage of it.
With your regular radios, you can’t do it. Need to go for the good digital police scanner.
Many people don’t see the benefit of GPS on the scanner radio. That’s where they make the mistake.
If you have a GPS compatible device at hand, it will update the frequency to your location. For example, if you move to Brooklyn from Staten Island, the radio scanner will know your change in location and look for frequencies in that area.
Otherwise, you’ve got to do it all manually—not cool.
Go for a device that comes with a frequency search feature. With its help, you can find frequencies in your area that are up for use. That’s one less work for you.
Besides the frequency search, another feature that you need to look for is the service search.
What’s the difference?
With the service search, you can scan through some pre-programmed frequencies. Now, these signals are usually what the local services like police, fire service, and so on use.
Depending on your location, you can program them to find the service provided in those areas.
It is a feature that can be of great value if the police radio scanner you’ve got has many channels to offer.
Then the scanning speed will be able to go through all of them and help you find active channels in the shortest time.
It will go through 50 channels per second at least in a second to give you a frequency to use. With low speed, you might miss the activity as people don’t stay on the signal for long using radios.
You can operate your home police scanner using the PC. All you need to do is connect the device with your computer. But that’s not it. You need software to operate the scanner using your PC. Finding it won’t be an issue as most devices today come with a software program.
With this feature, using the device can be easier for some.
Plus, it allows you to download new frequencies on the scanner for use. But make sure, the device you’re getting offers it. Just don’t go expecting every one of them will have it.
NOAA alert features are available in all sorts of radio devices today. From walkie-talkies to emergency radios, this feature exists in all.
And it makes sense to have this feature. If any big storm or hurricane is coming towards you, you get the heads up to prepare for the disaster.
No doubt, it will add great value to the radio scanners.
Emergency systems are something that many aren’t aware of for sure. To make it simple, this feature is what allows you to connect to the local agencies. It might be mentioned as the S.A.M.E system.
Now, what it does it connects the device to the specific bands. No need for you to do it. That way you get the latest update about the weather or any other breaking news in your area.
In simple words, you get the news before it hits the news. That’s what this feature offers.
Having a large, backlit display on the device can make a world of difference. You will be able to use it better and know what feature is in use by the device. Even in dark conditions, you won’t have a problem operating it.
People are using so many frequencies. There are transmissions all around you that you can’t see, but the digital police scanner you’ve got can pick up with ease.
But you don’t want that. The main reason to use such a device is to look into what’s happening near you. Therefore, prioritizing the local transmission in Brooklyn where you live matters. What is the use of the Staten Islands one for you? Nada!
Lists and Banks:
It is more like a directory feature in the scanner radio. You just organize the channels using this. Just pick up a frequency you want and store it in an orderly manner. This will help you to find channels faster while scanning.
Like the lists and banks option, the memory feature also works similarly. But here you can now categorize the channels just like the banks but put them on their scan list. That gives you more control over the channels.
That’s because you can keep track of each category and their frequencies the way you want.
It depends on the model you’re using. If you’re using a desktop police scanner, then it would get powered through the wall outlets.
For the handheld units, it uses rechargeable batteries or in some cases also uses AAA batteries as its backup power source.
With the mobile police scanner, the storage system is simple. Your car’s dashboard is where it gets fixed.
You can clip the handheld police scanner on the belt or the chest pocket. Or just carry it in your hand. They don’t require much space.
Then the desktop versions as the name says, require a large space like the desk to set it up.
Police scanner using pro tips:
You might be using the police scanner for some time now. But you’re not getting that much receptions that you expected. To get the best use out of your scanner radio, you should give a try to the tips mentioned below.
Many don’t know, but police and other services often change their frequencies quite often. So, maybe one day all of a sudden, there is nothing but static on the channel that once used to be the source of excitement for you.
That’s why you need to update channels often.
With an SD card in most police scanners, it won’t be hard to download channels on the device. Uniden and other devices offer software to make this work quite easy.
If the feature isn’t available on the device, don’t worry. You can manually program them too.
Switch your Antenna:
I can’t put enough emphasis on the fact of how a good antenna can change the transmission quality in the device. Already, I mentioned this earlier. I will say it again, look for a quality antenna. This will not only improve the sound quality, but you will get a better range.
Place it right:
The quality antenna will make a difference. But you’ve got to place it in the right position to get the best use out of it. There are three things you need to do:
- Put it as high as you can
- Remove any obstacle in its way
- No other signals to interfere with it
If you can tick all the boxes, then you are sure shot to get better service.
Amplify the signal:
Also, I talked about it earlier. Get an amplifier to strengthen the signal. Combining it with your antenna, you are going to get a better result for sure.
Learn the codes:
If you’re interested in listening to the police channels, then you must learn the lingo. That’s because they won’t transmit to the station saying there is a B&E in that area. They will say the code. Without knowing the codes, you might not know what just happened. So, learn the lingo if you can.
Try to follow these tips, and you will find a new appreciation for your radio scanner. Trust me.
FAQs on Police Scanners
Are police scanners legal?
Yes, police scanners are legal to use.
What are alpha tags?
Alpha tags are a feature that you will find in many trunking radio scanners today. With it, you can program frequencies with display text. That way, it’s easier to know about the agency transmission you’re listening to at the moment.
What kind of scanners does police use?
Still, analog police scanners dominate the department. But many are opting for the latest digital scanner radios for more privacy.
Do analog police scanners still work?
They are still in use. But agencies are moving towards the more advanced trunking and digital scanners for better quality and security.
How far can a scanner pick up?
On average, the scanner can pick up transmissions in a range of 25-50 miles.
Can you use a TV antenna for a scanner?
The answer is NO. That’s because those antennas get made to pick up TV bands. Sad to say, they aren’t for the radio frequencies.
Do police scanner apps work?
To be fair, some do work. But not all of them. And the reception in quality isn’t the best. It’s better to have a cheap police scanner than the app for the task.
How much does a police scanner cost?
It depends. With the most advanced devices, you might have to pay big bucks. Then others come within the 100 buck range. What you’re looking for and how much you’re ready to pay is the question.
What is code 6 on a police scanner?
When you hear Code-6 on the police scanner. That means there is no one close by in the incident and someone from a long distance is responding to the matter.
Is there a way to listen to police scanners online?
There are websites like Broadcastify that might let you listen to transmissions. But not sure about the quality of it.
What does trunking mean on a scanner?
Trunking means grouping frequencies in a small frequency range to get to scan through them fast—no need for scan through a lot of signals.
Police radio scanners are a great way to keep up to date about your neighborhood crimes. And after the George Floyd incident, it has been a way to stand up against the Police crimes. To be ready and avoid them—for the good.
Whatever the reason, having the best police scanners can be of great value.
So, go for it. Take a look at the ones I’ve got here or go and find one on your own. It’s all legal. No need to worry.