The Imminent Demise of a Grassroots Radio Resource

Wired News reports on the imminent demise of the most authoritative scanner frequency guides, Police Call. Apparently the author/publisher is getting old and tired, and sees waning interest in the hobby of listenting to police, fire, emergency and other radio communications.

Also putting a dent in things is the fact that many police departments are switching over to trunked systems, which require more expensive and sophisticated scanners. And big cities are switching over to digitally encrypted radios, which are illegal to decrypt.

For many years my mother kept tabs on what was going on around town by listening to a scanner, which often was on for hours a day. I know my dad programmed the frequencies using Police Call as his guide.

I’m pretty sure that police scanners have played a valuable roll during many large protests, giving volunteers at convergence centers a head’s up on what the cops are up to.

And, frankly, I think it sucks that police communications are being encrypted and made inaccessible to the public, with criminal penalties for listening in. The public really ought to know what they’re civic employees are up to and how their communities are being policed. Certainly the police scanner has been the best friend of the local reporter waiting for the next fire, murder or major crime. We should be worried when the police need to hide what they’re up to.

It’s true that frequencies are available all over the net if you want to find out how to listen to police and emergency communications in your area. But I know that I’ve often had a hard time finding a definitive and updated list for my area on-line, picking through outdated and abandoned frequency lists all over the ‘net.

Police Call has always been a consistent and reliable source that you didn’t need a computer to use. It was truly grassroots and it will be missed.