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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Police Scanners for spot news, the kind to buy?
Daniel Belis, Assistant, Student/Intern
Los Angeles | CA | US | Posted: 2:15 PM on 07.19.06
->> Im the photo editor at my college paper and I wanted to get into shooting more spot news. I bought a police scanner years back from Radio and now its time to upgrade. Can anyone give me suggestions on what to buy? I have heard good things about the Uniden scanners, and was told to stay away from the Radio Shack kind.

Thanks
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Peter Quinn, Photographer
Fort Worth | TX | USA | Posted: 2:25 PM on 07.19.06
->> I have a RadioShack PRO-97. It was reasonably priced and works well. Handles most of the mulit-trunked systems around here and is small enough to go in my bag. Programming it was a bit of a pain, but I think there are cable/software kits that will allow you to do most of the programming on your computer and download it. For me though, it was a massive hunt and peck session.....
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Jane Tyska, Photographer
Oakland | CA | USA | Posted: 2:26 PM on 07.19.06
->> I've had a number of Uniden scanners over the years and always found them easy to use and very reliable. Here's a link to the one I currently use:

http://www.uniden.com/store/itemdetail.cfm?item=B-BC246T

It does both trunk-tracking and conventional frequencies at the same time. Battery life is decent, though I also have a car charger for mine.
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Jack Arent, Photographer, Assistant
Hayward | CA | | Posted: 3:07 PM on 07.19.06
->> Make sure you test your scanner while in a moving car. I have an old Uniden Bearcat scanner.. My scanner works great in the office, but on the road it's not very functional.

Jack
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Marc F. Henning, Photographer
Bentonville | AR | USA | Posted: 3:12 PM on 07.19.06
->> find out what kind of system your local agencies are on. we have several agencies in my area and one of them is on a more updated digital system which requires a digital scanner to hear their frequencies. Radio Shack has all you need when it comes to basic and more sophisticated digital trunking scanners.

marc
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Kevin M. Cox, Photographer, Assistant
Round Rock (Austin) | TX | US | Posted: 3:45 PM on 07.19.06
->> Daniel, depending on what agencies/system you want to monitor will help determine what your options are. Are they still conventional, are they trunked, P25, etc.

Let me know specifically who you are looking to hear and that will help us narrow down the options.
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Damon Moritz, Photographer, Photo Editor
Woodbridge | Va. | USA | Posted: 4:00 PM on 07.19.06
->> Find your local motorola dealer (ask the fire chief) and buy a fire pager and have the dealer set it to your local call center frequencies. Your local fire chief or dispatch center may even loan one to your paper.

I bought a pager, had it programmed and used it non-stop for two years. It was a lot less intrusive than a scanner on my hip. I was still able to hear all of the calls following tones and non of the useless chatter such as engine calls for dinner and fuelings.

My wife really appreciated the relative silence and my editor appreciated the results.

Damon
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Rick Burnham, Photographer
Enfield | CT | USA | Posted: 10:10 PM on 07.19.06
->> Try these guys they're in NY state:

http://www.scannerworld.com/

very reliable, great service, competitive prices and always helpful. Bought a bunch of stuff from them over the years not only for personal use but for fire department use as well.

Rick
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Joel Philippsen, Photographer
Youngstown | OH | USA | Posted: 11:47 PM on 07.19.06
->> I've got a Radio Shack Pro-93. Audio quality isn't great but has pretty decent range and for the price you cant really beat it. the main thing to look for is if it has trunking.
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Christopher Weddle, Photographer, Student/Intern
State College | PA | USA | Posted: 12:52 AM on 07.20.06
->> http://www.radioreference.com/

This site should be able to tell you what type of system your area is using. It also has almost any frequencies you might need.
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Michael P. King, Student/Intern, Photographer
Appleton | WI | USA | Posted: 1:21 AM on 07.20.06
->> Daniel...

I just went through the entire process, start to finish, selecting to programming, with our new monitoring gear at The Post-Crescent in Wisconsin where I'm interning. Selecting the scanner is only half the battle.

Uniden is pretty well trusted as a scanner manufacturer. They have a historic reputation on their side.

As said above,
http://www.radioreference.com/, is a fantastic resource for frequencies all over the world. Because you're in the LA Metro area, and there are several agencies using the [relatively] new APCO25 digital systems (a vast majority of the LAPD for instance), you'll need a scanner that is capable of picking up those signals, as well as the other conventional frequencies and trunked systems. This will of course cost you more money... it's just a cost of living in a hip, metro area. You will need to pick a scanner from this list:

http://uniden.com/products/productlisting.cfm?cat=scanners&filter=Digital

Once you have the scanner, then the fun begins. Uniden apparently pours its resources into making great products, not instruction manuals... horrible documentation is included that will often leave you feeling, oddly, patronized and utterly confused at the same time.

When your scanner arrives, expect to spend at least 1-2 days, researching all of the frequencies you need, planning how you want to program them (your organization scheme), and then actually programming them.

Don't waste your time trying to enter all the frequencies by hand. You can download free software from Uniden.com to put on a Windows PC (no Mac support) and connect to the scanner via serial port. Yeah... serial port... you know... the port on the back of your computer you haven't used in 15 years? You can then enter all your frequencies and descriptions with a keyboard. Despite its nuances, it is very helpful. Being able to see a text read-out of who is talking is invaluable and I can't imagine not utilizing it.

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a line off my member page.

Good luck,
--MK
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Tim Hynds, Photo Editor, Photographer
Sioux City | IA | USA | Posted: 10:09 AM on 07.20.06
->> Howdy,

Get yourself a Uniden 396T. It's a pretty nice scanner and is capable of scanning all of the current public safety radio systems in use in the United States (although no scanner will let you monitor encrypted signals or proprietary systems such as OpenSky or Nextel).

Plus, it is "easily" programmed via a PC. No small consideration when the radio is capable of storing about 6,000 channels/talkgroup complet with text tags. It is also user firmware upgradable which is important with impending 800 MHz re-banding.

When our city recently switched to a P25 800MHz trunked system, I purchased four of them for the office and bought one for personal use. They really rock.

I WOULD NOT recommend the Radio Shack model if you are interested in listening to a P25 trunked system. Although I own MANY older RS scanners, I have heard few compliments on them as far as ease of use and programming on trunked systems.

FWIW: I have been a licensed ham radio operater for the past 15 or so years and at my current paper I have to deal with listening to Motorola trunked systems, EDACS systems, conventional VHF (both high and low band), UHF and a smattering of conventional digital P-25 sytems. The 396T does it all as well as can be expected.

Confused? Feel free to contact me via my member page.
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Ron Erdrich, Photographer
Abilene | TX | USA | Posted: 11:38 AM on 07.20.06
->> When I lived in California I seem to recall a friend of mine saying that it was illegal in that state to operate a scanner in a moving vehicle. That didn't stop us, just made us more cautious, but it might be something you want to check out.

When you're ready to buy I'd recommend using an online service like Shopzilla to help you search for the right price. I got a great deal on my hard drive when it died last year, I think I saved something like $75.

-Ron-
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Jarrett Baker, Student/Intern
Gainesville | FL | | Posted: 6:33 PM on 07.20.06
->> Adding to what Damon was saying, I like the Incident Page Network. (http://www.incidentpage.net) For around $20 a month, IPN will send an alphanumeric page whenever breaking news occurs. You have to buy the pager, which IPN will sell you for $50, and then pick your coverage area and what types of calls you want to be notified of. IPN also includes weather and major news headlines in the package.

And as to scanners in cars being illegal, as long as the unit is not hard wired, I believe you are ok. At least that's the way I believe it is in Florida.
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Guy Rhodes, Photographer
East Chicago | IN | USA | Posted: 7:35 PM on 07.20.06
->> Scanner legaility:

http://www.vikingint.com/scanners.htm
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Geoff Miller, Photographer
Portage | MI | USA | Posted: 6:49 PM on 07.22.06
->> To buttress what others have said, if you're going to scan emergency services nowadays, you'd be foolish to buy anything less than a digital scanner. Fueled by a flood of Homeland Security grants, police and fire systems have been upgrading their communications equipment in droves and moving to high-end stuff. In our county here, the only services using analog FM systems are the county-wide fire channels (no doubt due to the few analog town hold-outs), and a few towns/villages.
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Damon Moritz, Photographer, Photo Editor
Woodbridge | Va. | USA | Posted: 8:53 PM on 07.22.06
->> I just signed up for incidentpage.net and it is already paying off. What a nice service.
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Steven E. Frischling, Photographer
New England | | USA | Posted: 8:56 AM on 07.23.06
->> Daniel:

For scanning the various complex networks in and aroun LA City and LA County (looking at your location) I would suggest something like the Unident BCT15 or the Uniden Trunk Tracker III with the optional APCO 25 card to listen to digital trunked systems.

Scanning changes often so supplmenting with a system like Incident Net paging is a good service. In a major area, like L.A. , Incident Net is very reliable.
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Nina Zhito, Photographer
bay area | CA | | Posted: 4:20 PM on 08.31.06
->> in my opinion the big problem with uniden handhelds is that they need a proprietary battery pack.

sure you can recharge, but something with aa batts like the radio shack product for example is way more convenient -- and safer. you don't want to be stuck out on a scene and have your radio fail cause your power goes.

this may be a feature that is being updated in newer models, don't know offhand.
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Kevin M. Cox, Photographer, Assistant
Round Rock (Austin) | TX | US | Posted: 4:30 PM on 08.31.06
->> Nina, the newest Uniden handheld, the BCD396T takes 3 AA batteries.
http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/BCD396T
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Chris Williams, Student/Intern, Photographer
Rancho Cucamonga | CA | USA | Posted: 10:24 PM on 08.31.06
->> Thanks for the link Kevin! Looks like a pretty decent buy if your local emergency services use digital frequencies.

Chris
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Kevin M. Cox, Photographer, Assistant
Round Rock (Austin) | TX | US | Posted: 11:27 PM on 08.31.06
->> No problem. If the agency you are listening to is P25 digital there are really only six choices for a scanner though. They are listed here: http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/RR_FAQ#Specific_Scanning_Questions
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Rich Pettigrew, Photographer
Portsmouth | NH | USA | Posted: 1:54 PM on 09.01.06
->> I just bought a Uniden BCD396T a few months ago and it has worked great for me. It has a large number of bigger US cities already pre-programmed, I know L.A. is one of them.
The Uniden was recommended to me by the company who installs most of the radio systems for the various departments in my area. Recommend a FM wireless transmitter so you can have it come out your car or home stereo speakers.
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Ron Erdrich, Photographer
Abilene | TX | USA | Posted: 3:08 AM on 09.02.06
->> Once you get these new scanners, who programs them? The cops in my town are telling us that they will program the scanners for us because we won't be able to find the frequencies. That sounded a little doubtful to me but what do I know? Is there someway to find freqs if you don't know where to look? Will the scanner just search every possible band?
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Kevin M. Cox, Photographer, Assistant
Round Rock (Austin) | TX | US | Posted: 4:18 AM on 09.02.06
->> Ron, www.radioreference.com is the best place to go and it is free. Here is the information for Taylor County: http://www.radioreference.com/modules.php?name=RR&ctid=2743

According to the info there, Abilene and Taylor County are still using conventional frequencies without trunking so you wouldn't need one of the newer digital (+ $500) scanners to listen. (Assuming that is all you want to listen to.) A model with text tags would make scanning a lot easier, so you could grab a model like the Radio Shack Pro-97 for $200 or less. Obviously if you want to listen to other systems/counties you might need a more advanced model.

The site relies on user submitted data and the public FCC database so it isn't always 100% correct, but it is a great community with forums where everyone helps each other out, like SportsShooter but for radios/scanning!
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Jim Vavaroutsos, Photographer
West Hartford | CT | USA | Posted: 7:38 AM on 09.02.06
->> I just bought the uniden BCD996T. Great scanner it features
trunking,p25, also has gps tracking, you can plug a gps unit in to it if you are traveling and it will change the freqs for the areas you are in. Also can be rebanded.
You can read about it here:
http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/BCD996T
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David Harpe, Photographer
Louisville | KY | USA | Posted: 9:11 AM on 09.02.06
->> The Uniden units are very full featured, but the ergo is lacking. I bought a 396T and it was annoyingly cumbersome to use in the field...changing banks/squelch/volume was frequently a use-two-hands-and-look-at-the-radio task. I sold mine and went back to my Pro-96, which is much easier to use. You can pick them up on ebay for $100 or so pretty regularly.

Of course if you need the APCO-25 capability you're kind of limited on choices, but make sure you try before you buy to see if it works for you from an ergonomic standpoint.

Also make sure you check state/local laws on scanner usage. Most communities allow media scanner use in cars, but it can sometimes be a bit sketchy when it comes to freelancers. Check to see what sort of documentation is required to avoid being hassled.
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Alex Jones, Photographer
McAllen | TX | USA | Posted: 10:09 AM on 09.02.06
->> I have a Radio Shack Pro-95, Pro-96, and Pro-97 at work. If you don't need digital decoding capability (for APCO-25), the Pro-97 is hard to beat, and the price is right. The Pro-96 is slightly more clunky, but if you need its digital features, it works very well. I use it to listen to the Texas Department of Public Safety in my area.

I just snagged a Pro-2096 (the base twin to the Pro-96) off ebay to install in my truck, new in box it cost me $369.
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Thread Title: Police Scanners for spot news, the kind to buy?
Thread Started By: Daniel Belis
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