Back when I used to work at a big box retailer, we sold plenty of police scanner radios. People, it seems, like knowing what’s going on when sirens blare. It makes sense, then, that there have been a few police scanner apps to pop up on smartphones. That makes things much more convenient. Instead of just monitoring your local police, you can monitor sirens from wherever you are. But, as a recent MSNBC article notes, that app might be illegal. Certain states consider possession of these apps a misdemeanor. The problem isn’t with the scanner itself. Rather, it is with the mobility of that scanner. According to the MSNBC report, there are five states that completely outlaw mobile police scanners. If you live in Indiana, Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, or New York, you might want to wipe that app from your phone. You can apply for an FCC license, but unless you have a specific need for it, chances are they won’t grant you one. In addition, if you live in California, Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia, or West Virginia, you can get an additional charge tacked on if you commit a crime while using a mobile police scanner. While there are many police scanner apps for the iPhone and Android platforms, there aren’t quite as many for BlackBerry. If you run a search for police scanner in App World you come up with a few, while the same search in the BBGeeks Store yields far fewer results. (And, in fact, the Edmonton Police Scanner app is the one that made the lightbulb go off for this post.) Still, I’m sure they’re frequently downloaded apps. It just makes sense. If you like monitoring police activity, surely you’d want to do it on your mobile. This story arose because of a robbery in which one of the perpetrators used a mobile police scanner to make an unsuccessful getaway. Clearly, there is room for abuse in cases such as this. But should the possibility for abuse mean the rest of us can’t keep an eye on the police? This is going to raise quite a debate in the coming years are more and more cases come to court. I’m hoping the ruling eventually favors these mobile scanners. After all, who will watch the watchmen?