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Electronic Citations Help Law Enforcement Reduce Traffic-Ticket Errors

Nabbing Speedsters

February 7, 2008 By ,

Back in 2006, the San Jose, Police Department (SJPD) issued paper citations that took three weeks to process. But now, thanks to an electronic citation system implemented in 2007, officers issue more accurate tickets and the courts process them more quickly.

Located in the heart of California's Silicon Valley, San Jose has long prided itself for being technologically ahead of the game. So it should come as no surprise that in mid-2007, the SJPD brought some bad news to the city's boozers and speed demons: The eCitation system - designed by Intermec Inc. in collaboration with 3i Infotech - was rolled out to more than 50 officers, who now carry handheld computers loaded with the eCitation software. Additional units are on the way to 100 more SJPD officers.

"This is an entirely new platform," said SJPD Lt. Ruben Chavez, project manager of the eCitation system. The software reduces the percentage of citations that have errors, from 10 percent down to 2 percent.

"Accuracy is ensured at the front end when the officers are issuing the citation," he said. "For efficiency, that is 3,800 tickets [per year] that no one has to complete a quality-control review or retype all the data. It is extremely efficient."

With more than 4,000 citations issued since the new system went online July 30, 2007, both efficiency and accuracy have improved, and officers can complete their jobs more quickly.

Paper citations issued by the SJPD took three weeks to process, said Ramesh Narayanaswamy, president of government services at 3i Infotech. "This included copying, filing, hand sorting and hand entering them into a records department and then sending them to the court, which had to key-enter them into the court system for processing," he said. With the new system, the citations automatically are sent to court after a 48-hour waiting period.

"This wait period has been incorporated to allow officers to add notes and dismiss [or] amend citations if and when required," Narayanaswamy said. "Otherwise, these tickets could be automatically routed immediately."

The eCitation system also allows officers to nab more offending drivers.

"The most significant productivity feature in the application allows users to perform a 'make similar' [function] to any ticket they have written," Narayanaswamy said, "so subsequent tickets can be written very quickly, without having to re-enter data."

Though writing tickets more quickly is a nice benefit, it wasn't the goal of the system, he said, noting that the ultimate objective was to reduce the error rate and redundant entries. "When the full complement of officers is using the new eCitation system, a significant productivity improvement will be realized on the order of a 10 percent to 15 percent error and redundancy reduction."


Enforcement Integration

The court system in Santa Clara County, where San Jose is located, processes more than 250,000 traffic tickets per year.

The courts have been involved with the eCitation system since its inception. The system now is fully integrated for all violations heard in traffic court.

Because the system integrates with the courts and other branches of law enforcement, processing these tickets is streamlined and there is no risk of lost paperwork or misinterpretation of what is written. The technology cuts time spent processing citations for the other departments involved.

Officers enter the citation on a handheld computer, print a copy of the citation on a mobile printer and issue it to the driver, and then at the end of their shift - or if they drive by a wireless access point - officers upload the citations to the central server, Narayanaswamy said. "This data is processed, updates the current records database, and after a 48-hour wait period, they are electronically sent to the Santa Clara court system."

Also, the system's accuracy reduced fine disputes and other violator protests often heard

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