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.
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.
Easier Data Entry
“Another thing about the devices the police found useful was that the handheld has a magnetic-card-stripe reader so the drivers license can be swiped, and all of that information appears on the ticket, so that they dont have to enter any of that in; or, for new vehicles, new registration cards have a bar code that gives the [vehicle identification] number, so they can use the infrared scanner to scan that bar code, and they dont need to enter in a cryptic 17-digit number. But with push of a button they have it,” he said.
“They have proven very useful. They allow for quicker, more accurate and legible citations. We swipe the drivers license and use infrared to read the bar code of the door of the vehicle, which takes less time and makes for less time lost for the motorist,” said Sgt. Paul Accardo, assistant commander for the NOPD public affairs office.
Aside from making the law enforcement workers day easier and safer, the city expects tickets to be processed more easily in the courts.
“One of the main benefits is a decrease in the number of errors made on tickets, so the traffic court is not having to dismiss tickets because they cant read them or the wrong code is on the ticket,” said Charbonnet.
As for funding, the COPS Technology Grant was very helpful to the NOPD. “The cost to the city has been next to nothing,” he said.
After receiving funding, the project took about two months to execute. During the initial rollout, Infokall was on-site for two weeks and conducted training for the officers.
“Infokall did the training of the initial motorcycle policemen, and they did very focused training on five of them and basically trained them to be trainers. So if new folks come on to the force or we find a need to do retraining, that all can happen internally,” said Charbonnet.
In the next phase of deployment, the city plans to extend the application to laptops in 90 of its police cruisers. That phase is awaiting the implementation of a citywide wireless network, a project currently under way. The city is aiming for citywide coverage but may start out initially with a network of Wi-Fi hot spots.
The wireless network will also enable officers using the handhelds to upload data as they go, eliminating the need to upload data in cradles at the end of their shifts.
With Infokalls help, the city is also exploring ways to automate the interface between its citation systems and traffic court so that all the data can be made available to the court in XML or straight-text format without the need for manual data entry, said Charbonnet.
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