E-ticketing speeds up traffic stops

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August 8, 2008
— You’re already running late, and your speeding caught the attention of the friendly officer who’s now flashing his lights behind you.

Now you’ll be even later than planned as the officer writes your ticket with sometimes hard-to-read handwriting.

But technology is speeding up that process, and the Evansville Police Department has been the guinea pig.

Officers there are the first in the county to use an electronic traffic ticketing program, which Lt. Art Phillips said is almost cutting the time of traffic stops in half.

Less time on the side of the road means a safer stop, too.

“I really look at it as a safety issue,” Phillips said.

The department is using QuickTicket, software made by Advanced Public Safety, and the program will be rolled out soon among other area departments, said Dara Mosley, Rock County public safety systems manager.

In the next couple months, squads in the Rock County Sheriff’s Office and Janesville, Beloit and Milton police departments will have the software, he said.

Phillips demonstrated how it works:

-- An officer makes a traffic stop, talks to the driver and takes the individual’s driver’s license. The black barcode on the back of the license is swiped through a scanner in the squad. That brings the person’s information to the screen instead of having the officer type it all in.

-- Hitting just a couple keys, the officer can open a traffic citation with the person’s information already entered. The form leaves little for the officer to type in and uses drop-down menus, such as the violation and location of the offense.

The software only works for traffic citations, not municipal citations, right now.

-- The ticket then is printed off on a small printer inside the squad, and the driver receives the ticket, which looks much like a store receipt, only a little bigger. In the past, officers would handwrite the ticket and give a copy to the driver.

“It has sped up the amount of time that it takes to have somebody stopped and inconvenienced on the side of the road,” Phillips said, “and that’s more safety to us by not being there so long; it’s safety to the person that we stopped … but we’re not keeping people any longer than what we need to to complete the job that we need to do.”

He said his traffic stops typically took 15 minutes, and with the new software it’s down to seven minutes. The tickets also are easier to read.

“The handwriting skills of everybody isn’t in question anymore,” Phillips said. “Is it an eight or a nine? All of that has been eliminated.”

The software and equipment all were covered through grants from the federal government and the Click It or Ticket program, he said.

Evansville volunteered to be the first to use the new system so the bugs could be worked out in a smaller department before expanding to larger departments such as Janesville.

The department also received a $5,000 grant from the state and used it to set up the Badger TraCS system, which includes an electronic accident report already used by the Wisconsin State Patrol, he said.

Having that available at the police department is saving officers time when they return from a scene because they can electronically complete the form, including drawing the accident reconstruction on a computer instead of by hand, he said.

Department making changes to go green

The sign stating “Recycle whenever you can” next to the copy machine at the Evansville Police Department is just one display of how the station is trying to go green.

“We’re really trying to go green here,” Chief Scott McElroy said.

That means cutting paper use considerably and saving more reports electronically. All the files are backed up multiple times, McElroy said.

When he and his staff evaluated their paperwork routines, they decided much of what they printed off never was used again.

Here are a few ways officers are saving on paper:

-- When an officer proofreads a report, which often can be 30 to 40 pages, he either reads it on the computer or prints it on the back side of already-used scratch paper.

-- Complete reports no longer are printed off and filed away in a drawer. Instead they’re saved electronically and only printed off as needed. Each year, about 1,000 to 1,400 case files are filed away.

-- Files from years ago that have been sitting in boxes in the basement have been scanned in and saved electronically as Adobe Acrobat files. Each year contained about six boxes of files, and once scanned, they’ve been recycled.

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