posted on Mar, 30 2009 @ 08:49 AM
It depends on where you are and what you want to listen to.
Many agencies are going to digital communications so if you want to listen to them you must get a digital capable scanner. If they use encryption then
you are pretty much out of luck.
I am in NYC and some agencies still use plain old analog communications, some use digital trunking, some use all digital. You can get a single scanner
to cover all of this as long as they aren't using encryption.
Most of the stuff you hear is normal day to day boring operations. Once in a while you get something interesting. Most sensitive information is not
sent over the open channels. They use secure channels or the in car data terminals (which can be monitored, illegal so I won't get into it
here....google is your friend). Cell phones and Nextel are also used quite a bit and are pretty much secure.
Some things to keep in mind if you are looking to get a scanner.
1. Do some research and find out what frequencies the different agencies use that you want to monitor. Not all scanners cover all frequencies.
2. Find out what type of signal it is. Analog, trunked, digital, encrypted, FM, AM, SSB, CW. Like I said, if it's encrypted you are out of
luck...unless you have an unlimited budget. By unlimited I mean like a government. Of course you could...ahem...acquire... one of their radios if
it's that important to you but I would advise against it.
3. Check the laws in your area. I can't comment on the law in other countries, but in the US it's normally legal to listen as long as you don't
share or use the information you hear for personal use or gain. In many places it is illegal to have a scanner in a car without a permit... check
4. After you determine what you want, do your research and read reviews on different scanners that have the specs you need. Not all are created equal.
Just because a scanner covers the frequencies you want, it doesn't necessarily receive them very well. Some manufacturers claim wideband coverage but
they don't work very well at all frequencies.
5. Many agencies use codes and abbreviations to communicate. Learn then, otherwise you will be wondering what they are talking about.
6. It seems most federal agencies have gone digital and the good stuff is usually encrypted.
7. There are many.....interesting things you can do with a scanner and a PC. Again, google is your friend, though this information is getting harder
to find. If you decide to try some of these things make sure you scanner is capable, or easily modified to be capable.
IMO, your best bet is to combine your scanner with some other forms of communication such as ham radio, CB, even GMRS. The agencies only communicate
the info necessary. They aren't going to announce what they are doing every ten minutes. If you miss the initial call, you may not know anything at
all. If you can talk to other people in your area you have a better chance of getting the whole picture.