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County squads coming more into computer age

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Mike Heine
February 10, 2008
— “Just like at Wal-Mart,” Walworth County Deputy Bill Mortlock said as he showed a reporter his squad car’s new barcode scanner.

In December, the sheriff’s department upgraded its squad computers with TraCS, an electronic data collection system.


With barcodes on newer driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations, the program can automatically import driver and vehicle information and load it into a ticket or report form.


With a few clicks of a keyboard, deputies can print warnings, tickets and other information from a small printer in their squad.


That saves the officers time in the field by not having to write out tickets by hand. It’s especially useful when a driver has multiple offenses and officers don’t have to re-write information on each ticket.


“It’s really designed to take less than a minute,” said Sgt. Mark Roum, who put together the plan for implementing the software.


He now can write a ticket in about 90 seconds. A second ticket would only take moments longer.


The program can send accident reports to the state Department of Transportation via the Internet. It is also integrated with the state’s court record tracking system, the Circuit Court Automation Program (CCAP).


With everything stored on a computer, there is less of a paper trail for clerks in the sheriff’s department and at the clerk of court’s office, Roum said.


“Before, you’d go to a crash, write down information in your notebook and you’d clear. You’d come in at the end of your shift, do your accident report and take 20 minutes to fill in bubbles,” Roum said. “Then you’d turn it in to central records, and it would take one to four days before it was ready for pickup.”


Now, that information is ready in about a day, maybe less.


“The goal here is to get officers to finish reports at the scene while waiting for wreckers. Eventually we’ll have it ready for the people at the scene,” Roum said.


Deputies still are catching on to the new technology, but they see the timesavings.


“It was a little hard to get used to,” Mortlock said. “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. But now we’re in the computer age. It seems like since the bugs are worked out of it, it’s quicker.”


Mortlock noticed he is able to stay on patrol longer instead going to the station before the end of his shift to fill out his reports.


“That’s nicer. It keeps us out of the office and out on the road more,” he said.


The Wisconsin State Patrol has had the program for some years and Elkhorn Police Department has used it for about a year.


Officers there love it, Elkhorn patrolman Mike Nigbor said.


“Because we have a police chief who is aggressive with being on top of things, we’ve had it and we use it a lot,” Nigbor said. “I think every department should follow (suit).”



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