When Advanced Public Safety Inc., a Trimble Company, (APS) began developing solutions for mobile computers 12 years ago, almost no agencies had electronic ticketing. Today, e-ticket systems are common in larger agencies, but not as common in others. While more and more places are adding them, Jack Siney, APS chief operating officer, says significantly less than half of agencies have e-ticketing systems -- maybe about 2,000. Eric Fultz, president and CEO of a relatively new company called Saltus Technologies, also estimates the number hovers around 10 percent.
Agencies without e-ticketing are beginning to look at the benefits and cost-effectiveness of such a solution, while agencies that already have e-ticketing are already looking to expand their capabilities.
Officers routinely scan drivers' license numbers and enter data using a handheld or laptop computer. An electronic ticketing system will print subsequent tickets in the field; a copy of that ticket will then be sent electronically to the records management system at the police department and court system. "There's a lot of value-add with just those functionalities," Siney comments.
In Oregon, the Keizer Police Department first implemented an APS electronic ticketing system in 2008 with motorcycle officers using three handhelds, and then expanded the system to 20 Panasonic Toughbooks in the patrol cars. The new system was added to save on personnel hours.
"We were able to determine that an electronic ticketing solution would save the equivalent of one half of a full-time employee every year of the project," says Keizer Police Department Sgt. Lance Inman.
While it takes about 16 minutes to handwrite a citation, approve it and enter it into two databases, Inman says they predicted they could cut that time by 87 percent. He says that has proved to be a relatively accurate estimate.
Reducing the time an officer spends on the side of the road during a traffic stop also equates to increased safety. And make no mistake -- electronic ticketing helps reduce errors. Fultz says larger agencies can have a 10 to 15 percent error rate, which, in turn, means a significant number of dismissals and lost revenue that agencies with electronic ticketing don't have. No longer is it a problem if an officer's handwriting is illegible or an officer thinks the date is different than it actually is (the computer automatically fills it in).
After using digiTICKET from Saltus Technologies for a year, the Sand Springs Police Department (Ok.) found that in addition to other benefits, electronic ticketing helped reduce vehicle collisions.
Between May 2009 and May 2010, Sand Springs reports collisions dropped 11 percent. Over a two-year period, collisions dropped more than 16 percent.
Sand Springs Assistant Police Chief Mike Carter reports overtime funding from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office and digiTICKET are making an impact. DigiTICKET handheld devices with built-in GPS can map where citations are issued, so officers can see where the most collisions are taking place and target those locations.
Looking at stats via the system's Web component, Carter discovered there was what he calls an under-performing segment of the department. While the agency has no quotas, he says finding that some officers are issuing three tickets while others are issuing 50 is a noticeable difference.
Compared to agencies in its area, Sand Springs isn't anywhere near the top ticket-writing agency per capita. Carter says writing more tickets isn't their focus, though they are writing more than they had been and essentially the program paid for itself.
The department started with seven officers using digiTICKET in May 2009. All 22 Sand Springs patrol officers have had a digiTICKET handheld device since February 2010. Since Sand Springs implemented the system, Carter says they've had fewer complaints from citizens saying traffic stops take too long.
Mistakes worth avoiding
As agencies look to make the move to e-ticketing, Siney suggests avoiding three common mistakes: