The police scanner, also known as the police radio, or police dispatch, is featured in every Grand Theft Auto game since the first, with the exception of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, and Grand Theft Auto Online.
Upon gaining a wanted level, the dispatch will go off, which the player can hear. The police will announce the crime being committed, and will announce the player's location, saying something along the lines of "We have a (codename of crime) in north, west, etc. (location)". If the player is fleeing in a vehicle, the dispatch will say something such as: "Suspect last seen in a (color of car) (type of car)". These types of lines followed the same format with most GTA games, with a different voice of a policeman/woman in each game. There is no police scanner in GTA Liberty City Stories, GTA Vice City Stories, or GTA Chinatown Wars, possibly due to hardware limitations as these games were originally developed for handheld devices (although GTA Advance reuses a mangled version of the one featured in GTA III; see "Trivia" below). In addition, there is no police scanner in the multiplayer mode of GTA IV or Grand Theft Auto Online, likely due to more than one player being involved in the game and thus it cannot be used for everyone. However, the police scanner appears again during heists in GTA Online.
Grand Theft Auto IV
In Grand Theft Auto IV, the police scanner has changed dynamically. Now, the dispatch will say how many police cars will be dispatched to the crime scene ("Dispatch (number of units) units from (location)", "Dispatch air unit from (location)"), etc. Also, the dispatch will no longer use codenames (such as 10-92, 10-24, etc.), instead, announcing the actual name of the crime (reckless driver, helicopter down, shots fired, Grand Theft Auto, etc.). In some missions, the dispatch will say unique lines, such as the crimes Niko Bellic commits in missions such as Final Interview and Three Leaf Clover (in the latter, the dispatch's dialogue is the longest in the entire game, describing the robbery at the Bank of Liberty, and how the suspects are armed and dangerous). The same dispatch is reused in The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, with some new dialogue recorded exclusively for the two episodes. If Luis Fernando Lopez causes trouble at any of the two nightclubs in Algonquin, the dispatch will announce a "disturbance at the nightclub in Westminster/Purgatory". The police scanner is also absent in GTA: Chinatown Wars, although this was probably because of the hardware limitations.
Grand Theft Auto V
The police scanner reappears in Grand Theft Auto V, with updated dialogue from the new female dispatch operator. Like other games, the dispatch will use codenames, and will announce the location of the player. It will also announce the units dispatched to the crime scene. Sometimes the policewoman on the scanner will be scripted to speak on certain missions. The player can now hear dialogue from the helicopter pilots, which will say lines like "Air support in route!" The pilots will also announce if the player is in their sight or not.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the dispatchers will insult one another when making calls.
- In GTA: San Andreas, a unique police scanner sound can be heard in High Noon inside the Police Car owned by C.R.A.S.H..
- The police dispatch in the PlayStation 2 version of Grand Theft Auto III is less distorted than in other versions of the game.
- The police dispatch in Grand Theft Auto Advance is recycled from Grand Theft Auto III, although at times it could repeat the same thing, and could even mix up the lines, such as mixing up the code-name of the crime with what vehicle the player is driving or if he/she is on foot (ex. the dispatch may say "We got a - Suspect is on foot! - in east Aspatria"). Notice the dispatch does not announce the crime, instead announcing that the player is on foot. The dispatch may even go off to crimes that Mike is not committing, but other crimes in the vicinity.
- In Franklin and Lamar a unique dispatch call can be heard saying "Officers have lost sight of the suspect, code 4, all units return to patrol." This is heard when Franklin loses the cops after the race with Lamar.
- In Grand Theft Auto V, the woman will either describe the vehicle, or call the vehicle by its manufacturer and its model. She incorrectly describes The Liberator as a 'white' vehicle, likely due to white being the base color of the vehicle, despite the vehicle being mostly blue.
- When announcing a vehicle description, the dispatch operator will often use Hedges (using "um"s and "ahh"s) as if trying to interpret a description from an eye witness, for example "Suspect is in a uh... white Albany Emperor". This was likely done so recordings are shorter and take up less space on the disk/user's hard drive, and to reduce the need for the repetition of vehicle/location names.
- In GTA V, the dispatch operator may even say/describe the names of the three protagonists (ex. "Suspect is a young African-American male/Suspect is Franklin Clinton"), however, she incorrectly says Michael De Santa's last name as "De Santo".
- In GTA Online, the scanner can sometimes be heard activating, but the operator nor the deactivating scanner FX isn’t heard after the sound plays. This is most likely to be a glitch.
- The police radio band that plays whenever the player is in a police vehicle in Grand Theft Auto 1 is reused in Grand Theft Auto 2, and some of the dialogue is briefly reused in GTA III, albeit much shorter, with the addition of some new dialogue. However, the police radio does not constantly play, only every few seconds will a line be played. This is a generic police radio track, used in countless films, series and games ("5 George K, number 30 Broad street" is said in the track). GTA London 1969 was the first Grand Theft Auto game to not reuse this generic police radio track, instead having its own unique police radio created specially for the game, with appropiate elements like the use of British accents and references to locations in London. However, this practice would not be repeated until Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Since GTA Vice City, all the games that have included a police radio have used an original track created for that game.
- The dispatch operator seems to go off less in GTA: San Andreas than its preceeders, only going off after the player earns a wanted level star. The dispatch will say "Respond to a (code or crime) in north, east, etc. (name of district the player is in)", then will immediately say "Suspect last seen on foot/Suspect last seen in a (color of vehicle) (type of vehicle)". Although the voice lines are in the same format as those used in GTA III and GTA: San Andreas, the dispatch operator is less repetitive. This is the opposite of the case with III and Vice City, where in those games, the police scanner is very repetive and can go off continuously especially when the player is in combat.
- In some games, the police scanner files reference places that do not appear in the game. For example, in GTA V, some of the files reference Majestic County, and Ventura County. It is possible that those were the original names for Los Santos and Blaine counties, but they were changed in the final release of the game.
- The 10-codes used in the PC, Xbox, and mobile versions of GTA Vice City are different from those used on the PS2 and PS4 versions, with 10-codes for crimes on police now being used as 10-codes for crimes on civilians. The dispatch operator also now calls out aircraft destruction as a "10-VICE CITY" (e.g. "There's a 10-VICE CITY in central Escobar International.").
- On the mobile versions of the game, the dispatch operator speaks at a slower speed.