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City's Cops Go High-Tech, Can Ticket Straight From Cruiser

The Free Lance-Star via YellowBrix

December 29, 2009

The tense moments you spend sweating in your car, waiting for a police officer to write your latest traffic ticket could be fewer, thanks to a new technology Fredericksburg Police are introducing.

Fredericksburg is the first locality in Virginia to install equipment in police cars that allows officers to fill out and print traffic tickets straight from their vehicles.

The new system is a time-saver.

It’s faster for police officers in the field, and it eliminates the need for police employees to spend hours entering hand-written data into the courts computer system.

That could improve accuracy, according to Robert Palmer, who oversees the technology for the Virginia Supreme Court.

“The time it takes today to get a summons from the police officer into the court system takes quite a bit of data entry,” he said. “If you only have to enter it once, the accuracy of the data goes up tremendously. There’s no interpreting handwriting anymore.”

Palmer said Fredericksburg is the first locality to get the new equipment out on the streets, but several other areas are in the process of introducing it, including Augusta, Smyth and James City counties. Falls Church and Alexandria are also interested in it, he said.

Thanks to a federal grant, Fredericksburg police purchased 12 printers and scanners that connect with the laptops already installed in police cars.

When an officer stops a driver, he or she scans the bar code on the driver’s license. That puts all of the driver’s information on the ticket.

The officer can then print copies on a small printer that fits between the two front seats of the police cruiser, and then take them to the offender to sign.

“It’s a lot faster,” said Officer Tom Evans, who has been using the new system for a little more than a week. “And the courts love it because it’s legible.”

Police spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe said the new equipment also saves time back at police headquarters.

“We had people in our records department who spent hours out of every day manually entering information into our system,” she said. “This has very much streamlined the process and completely removed the data entry portion of the workload.”

The electronic ticket system adds to the city’s growing arsenal of electronic enforcement tools.

Two years ago, Fredericksburg became the first city in the United States to use a high-tech parking enforcement system called AutoChalk.

That system allows a driver to make regular rounds of parking enforcement zones in a vehicle equipped with cameras and computers that can automatically track parking violations and generate tickets that are mailed to offenders.

Bledsoe said the department hopes to be able to buy electronic ticket units for every police vehicle as funds allow.

Emily Battle: 540/374-5413 Email: ebattle@freelancestar.com


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