That’s the ticket!

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...

  1. Thinking electronic ticketing means you just have an electronic version of your form.

    There's more to it. "Once you do an electronic ticket, the impact throughout the law enforcement agency and the city can be very significant," he says. "Not only do you have an electronic form, which is faster for officers and creates electronic data, you're also able to immediately transfer that data to the RMS and the court."

  2. Not fully understanding all the nuances involved in processing a ticket from the time it's issued until it is adjudicated in the court system.

    Picture a citation with 80 data fields. There are a lot of potential options as forms are filled out. Siney gives an example: if an officer in the field is allowed to mark gender as male, female or unknown, but the court database only recognizes male and female, the data cannot be properly uploaded to the court system.

  3. Assigning the implementation of the new ticketing system to a patrol officer as an "additional-duty-as-assigned" that he or she does not have enough time for.

Like any automated system, Siney says there needs to be a project manager in place whether it's someone on staff or someone who's contracted for several months.

Before you buy

The e-ticketing solution is nice, Siney says, but it's an ancillary system to the CAD, mobile data system and RMS. It should be able to plug into anywhere you want it.

A solution also should be able to adapt to changing laws and be able to scale to other forms as agencies look to add more electronic capabilities.

Whether or not new computer hardware is needed, Fultz advises not to choose a solution that locks an agency into using one type of technology. Choose hardware that can be used for something other than e-ticketing and choose software that can be easily altered to work with new systems or process changes. For example, if you're using an AT&T network and you want to move to a Sprint network, you don't want to have to replace all of your equipment.

Cost considerations

One of the biggest misconceptions smaller agencies may have about e-ticketing solutions is that they are expensive. With advances in hardware and software, costs have come down.

Small agencies often approach Fultz saying budgets are tight and there's no money for an e-ticketing system, but they want to see a demo anyway. When they hear about the benefits and how such a system can positively impact their budget, they start looking for ways to make a purchase. Many times agencies will buy four or five units and use them for a few months, and as the system pays for itself they'll add more units, he says.

"Adding on is basically buying hardware," Fultz says. "There are no services or additional expense for deployment. The hardware is really just off the shelf; we install our software and we're ready to go." Some agencies start small or with their motorcycle units.

One of the first things agencies should look at is what they already have. Often printers will be needed, and sometimes barcode or magstripe readers. But are there MDCs that could be used as part of the e-ticketing system, or will new laptops or handhelds be needed?

The next level

Often after agencies capture data electronically on the front end, they want more. They want to do more with the data and increase their automation.

Siney describes agencies are taking e-ticketing to the next level by:

  • Adding the back-end portion of an e-ticketing solution. They're looking to take the citation data they've captured electronically and do ad hoc reporting.
  • Doing more electronically. Rather than print out tickets and have a supervisor initial it, they want to electronically send the document to a supervisor for approval.
  • Data mapping. Agencies want to geocode data and see on a map where tickets were issued.
  • Adding e-commerce. The ability to process payments is fast becoming part of the e-ticketing solution.

Growing ROI

Looking to the future, form automation will likely increase. Keizer PD officers are completing traffic crash reports in limited capacities in the field while the drivers are still present, and finish their report after the scene is cleared. Part of this report is an electronic diagram.

Inman would like to start using GPS technology to populate the location field on electronic forms, but the agency currently lacks funding to add the GPS hardware.

Down the road, the agency will look at other types of electronic form completion. When Keizer PD and other agencies get there, options might include crash reports, towed vehicle slips, property receipts and arrest reports. This will further increase agencies' ROI.

"The ROI ... is already enormous, probably more so than with any other solution an agency could deploy in a short term," Siney says. Fultz adds the ROI is the same for small agencies as it is large agencies.

"They have the same productivity gains, elimination of errors and cost decreases on the back-end," he says.

With the flexibility afforded by today's technologies, just about anything an agency wants to do can be done. It often comes down to cost. But Carter tells agencies over the course of a year or two, a e-ticketing system could likely pay for itself.

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