As the fall semester comes to a close, a graduating UC Berkeley student and tenet of Berkeley life will no longer update Scanner Berkeley, an emergency service tracking account known as @ScanBerkeley on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Stephan Baum-Harvey, a campus senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies, expects to graduate at the end of next month. He started the broadcast account @ScanBerkeley in February, 2022.
Since its inception, the account has developed a following of more than 3,500 students, family and community members on X. Baum-Harvey’s independent reporting account follows the movements of police, fire, medical and emergency personnel through radio communication.
“I’m practically always listening if I’m up and awake,” Baum-Harvey said. “I always have it in the background for basically anything I’m doing.”
Baum-Harvey posts about 50 to 100 updates per day, with a mission to give community members assurance by informing them of emergency service activity in their neighborhood.
When not at home, Baum-Harvey uses a handheld radio to listen to emergency service channels and manually update the X account. To allow Berkeley residents to tune in, he also developed a homemade Raspberry Pi radio traffic system that operates live through his website.
Baum-Harvey started his account as a hobby, but his reporting soon distinguished itself from other similar sites. According to David Yee, a freelance photojournalist and Berkeley resident, the broadcast is unique in its ability to deliver radio traffic signals much faster than other streams.
“Even though it has been online only for a few short months, it was a game changer for anyone who listens to online scanners for information about what’s going on in Berkeley,” Yee said in a private message on X.
According to Baum-Harvey, the administration of both the X account and scanner website has been almost entirely self-funded, with only a handful of donations made by community members.
The cost of administration is relatively high because of the sophistication of technology, Baum-Harvey noted. He added that finding someone to take over the broadcast would be difficult due to the complexity of his system and the time commitment involved.
“I don’t think there’s going to be anybody posting as much as I do (when I’m gone),” Baum-Harvey said. “But I do think there’s going to be a demand for someone knowing what is happening.”
After graduation, Baum-Harvey said he will return to his hometown of Los Angeles and continue tracking local emergency services from there.
Baum-Harvey noted that his departure to Southern California will render the online service unavailable because the scanner will be out of range.
“It’s expanded past something that was just a hobby into something that the community actually really cares about,” Baum-Harvey said. “Overall, I think it’s more become a place where you can check anytime you hear sirens going down your street.”