Faster Fines in the Big Easy

The New Orleans Police Department is rolling out a new mobile ticketing system that combines handheld devices and portable printers to speed the ticketing process, as well as traffic court.

The New Orleans Police Department has good news for motorists: The ticketing process is getting a whole lot faster in the Big Easy.

The department, which issues roughly 150,000 traffic tickets a year, is in the process of rolling out a new mobile ticketing system that combines handheld devices and portable printers to speed the ticketing process, as well as traffic court.

The NOPD began exploring new ticketing systems about a year ago. High on its list of goals was the need to reduce the amount of time officers spent filling out tickets on the roadside—a notoriously risky proposition. At the same time, the department understood that the more efficient the ticketing process became, the more efficient court would become.

With the help of a $500,000 COPS (Community Oriented Police Services) Technology Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and the technical expertise of systems integrator Infokall Inc., the NOPD got its IT solution. Infokall put together a system that combines Symbol Technologies Inc.s 2800-series ruggedized handheld computers with ONeil Product Development Inc.s 4t portable printers.

Running on the handhelds is a customized version of Infokalls CiteCapture application that automates common data entry tasks involved in filling out traffic citations. The system also can check remotely a vehicle or license number against local and national databases, eliminating the need for an officer to call a dispatcher to verify plate numbers.

Additionally, Infokall, of Santa Ana, Calif., customized CiteCapture for the NOPD to mirror the data fields on the citys paper-based ticket forms.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about Symbol Technologies new MC50 handheld.

Last month, Infokall helped the NOPD deploy 55 handhelds and mobile printers to police officers on motorcycles, who handle the majority of traffic violations in the city of nearly 500,000 residents.

The handhelds communicate to the printers via an 802.11 WLAN (wireless LAN), allowing officers to print tickets for motorists at the scene. Then, at the end of their shifts, officers can place the handhelds in cradles, where the data is uploaded to a central server. Once that is done, NOPD supervisors can approve the tickets online.

The motorcycle police officers have been using the equipment for several weeks, and the feedback so far has been extremely positive, said Michael Charbonnet, project manager of public-safety projects with the New Orleans Mayors Office of Technology.

"When we did a pilot, we put four officers on the street from various levels of technical expertise with the vendor ... and in a matter of a day, all four officers didnt want to give up the devices," said Charbonnet.

CiteCapture helps officers issue tickets more quickly by eliminating much of the repetitive data entry.

"For example, if youre set up in a school zone, youre not rewriting the officer information, the location or the violation because these inputs can be defaulted from the previous ticket," Charbonnet said. "The process of writing tickets is safer for the officer, who is not standing out in the street for a long time. And people getting tickets are happier because theyre getting on the road quicker. What could take 15 to 20 minutes before can now be done in a few minutes."

Because the devices are ruggedized for wear and tear, they are well-suited for police officers, especially motorcycle cops.

"They can endure getting wet and getting bounced around, and if theyre dropped they dont break," said Charbonnet.

The Symbol devices had additional compelling features for the city: built-in, two-dimensional bar-code and magnetic-stripe readers.

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