Hearing the rumble of the local police helicopter the other night I was reminded of how easy it was to listen in on police transmissions in the UK before they ruined it all by moving over to an encrypted service (TETRA). Go anywhere near a built up area and a scan around 452MHz would almost always reveal at least one active frequency to listen to.
Many happy nights were spent around a friends house who at the time lived in the center of Newport, South Wales which just happened to be one of the most violent towns in Britain at the time, thankfully things have gotten a lot better since then Ive been told.
Highlight of the night was when the pubs and nightclubs were closing and throwing all the boozed up people nice and warm inside out into the cold night air.
Even the almost virus like fly on the wall television programs don’t give a true picture of what the police have to deal with at the weekends in towns and cities like listening to an undermanned handful of officers trying to move everybody off the streets as quietly as possible.
Juicy information did get a little scare after a while though with most officers choosing to notify the person on the other end they would be phoning them and depriving the causal scanner enthusiast of the good stuff. You couldn’t really blame them though with almost every scanner made able to pick up their transmissions along with the fact that they were both cheap and so easy to get hold of.
The amount of muggers and buglers they were catching at the time who regarded a radio scanner as just another part of the tool kit had to give them some indication of how many were listening to their every word. Its not to say though that when things were hectic that there wasn’t still some interesting things to be heard when they had no time to make that (slightly) more secure phone call.
With the changes that were coming in world security it was obvious that a more secure system was bound to replace the basically open comms the UK police used at that time but finding those channels increasing empty was both strangely reassuring and a loss at the same time.
I listen and read a lot of the EMS radio feeds from around the world and although it goes some way to filling the void there is nothing better than being able to relate what you are hearing to your local area.
A Mountain Walk
Using a handheld scanner and getting a bit of altitude by taking a trek to some high ground would produced so many signals from police forces in many areas which sometimes made transmissions unreadable due to too many overlapping signals.
Much of my youth in Wales was spent dragging a combination of CB radio and scanner equipment up to the highest peaks for nights of camping with a good measure of radio thrown in.
Returning to the Present
As for the helicopter buzzing around above or house for hours at a time we have what could only be described as a poorly run prison nearby that has completely missed the point of its underlying purpose. It amazes me how many prisoners escape from there regularly making me think they should either look at the layout of the building or stop showing films like “The Great Escape” or the “Colditz Story” to the inmates 🙂
Police Helicopter Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license, Albert Bridge)