STORMTROOPER EARLY WARNING DEPT.
Radio scanning is a fun and interesting hobby to get into and once you become familiar with using one- it can be an invaluable tool as well- listening in on the local street police can warn you of an upcoming bust; listening in on CB radio's or railroads can give you useful information if you're hitchhiking or hopping trains; or checking if a location is possibly bugged or not.
The best places to find a cheap but reliable scanner is either Radio shack for new ones or the classifieds for used ones. I suggest getting a portable handheld type direct entry (not crystal) with at least 50 programmable channels. This type is highly versatile as you can use it almost anywhere with the proper AC adaptor. Make sure it covers at least the frequencies- 29-54, 137-174, and 406-512 MHz. Some models cover the aircraft bands (108-137, 216-400 MHz) or the 800 MHz band which cellular telephones transmit on as well- but these more expensive. If you buy a used one make sure you test it first to see if all features work before paying for it. I brought a Realistic Pro-41 scanner several years ago used from someone in chinatown for $75 which was a pretty good deal considering it was $50 cheaper than the regular price. Another vital item along with the scanner is a frequency directory. This will tell you where to tune in. The Police Call directories from Radio Shack are a good source. Directories listing for obscure frequencies (such as what the fed's, military aircraft, CIA, drug dealers, smugglers, etc. use) are also available from the following company- CRB Research, Box 56, Commack, NY 11725 (ask for a free catalog). Since frequencies are changed frequently for security reasons- start looking for and reading this magazine called Popular Communications which can be found in the library or at large bookstores (such as Borders). It's very good with articles ranging on changing frequencies, pirate radio stations, and new laws regarding scanner use. If you have trouble finding them at- CQ Communications, 76 N. Broadway, Hicksville< NY 11801-2953 for info regarding a sample issue or subscription.
Now that I showed you all the good news about using a scanner- it's time for the bad news. In some states if you're found using a scanner in a car and you're not a cop, firefighter, paramedic, or amateur radio licensee you can be arrested and/ or have your scanner confiscated. These states include New York, New Jersey, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Minnesota. In Canada you must register with the state to use one. Also in Jersey City, NJ, they passed a law which was later repealed requring scanner users to be registed with the cops. Within all states just about if you're found in possession of a scanner when being arrested for another offense, it's just like having buglary tools, an another charge may be added to your arrest and you certainly won't get the scanner back. One possible way around this is when using your scanner outdoors, DON"T carry it around like walkie-talkie. Use it with a pair of walkman headphones as almost all scanners have earphone jacks, carry it in a bag or pocket, and pretend you're listening to your favorite band when in fact you're listening to the MAN! In addition, paint in a color of that matching the scanner's case over the label and serial numbers (usually on the front and bottom). If a cop hassels you about your scanner, tell him the scanner is a 2-meter amateur radio transceiver (they almost look the fucking same) and you forgot your license at home and hope he believes you! Best yet, is to take the test for a amateur radio license and get it from the FCC and then the pigs canit fuck with you at ALL. Look for books in the library regarding this. Anyhow- good luck and good listening.