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APS ReportBeam E-Ticketing From Start to Finish

Written by Sharon Kissane

The system of electronic traffic tickets, better known as e-ticketing, is a speedier, safer, and more accurate way to write warning and traffic tickets. The speed of the process affects officer and public safety. “The more time a police officer spends in writing out a ticket, the larger the window of opportunity for a moving vehicle to hit the stopped squad car,” said Commander Jason Williams, Bellwood, lll. Police.

Writing tickets by hand leads to the potential for illegible handwriting, making it difficult for department clerks to decipher information when processing tickets. Williams has heard more than one traffic court judge complain that they could not read what was written on the ticket.

In addition, it’s possible for officers to make mistakes in writing information from a driver’s license or vehicle registration to the ticket, including transposing numbers. In fairness, a lot of attention-dividing activities, including officer safety, take place while writing a ticket during a traffic stop.

The Chicagoland police departments of South Barrington, Bellwood, Crestwood and Matteson have been pilot testing e-ticketing with Advanced Public Safety’s ReportBeam™, a field-based reporting software system. Bellwood Police Chief Rodney Boyd and South Barrington Chief Michael Deegan indicated the new system fulfills their goals of becoming more efficient and paperless.

APS ReportBeam

The APS ReportBeam solution is an advanced Field-Based Reporting (FBR) solution. It consists of computer based software, server side software, and a Web-based application that enables agencies to create an electronic version of any form/document and automate the mandatory processing associated with most agency paperwork, i.e., approvals, reporting. The ReportBeam solution contains five core modules.

Electronic Forms – ReportBeam enables agencies to create Electronic Forms™ that are an exact replica (or complete re-design) of any agency form/document, including warning and traffic tickets.

Workflow and Approvals – Once a warning or traffic ticket is completed within the ReportBeam system, it is automatically transmitted to the agency’s back-end database. Through a Web-based interface, supervisors are able to search for documents by ticket number, name, location or any other data field within the document. The ReportBeam system not only makes the desired data available instantly, it also makes it easy to identify and locate related forms/documents.

Reporting – In addition to the Workflow & Approvals™ module, ReportBeam provides supervisors (and other authorized personnel) the ability to create unlimited dynamic reports. Every data field within every document completed in the ReportBeam™ system can be queried.

ReportBeam provides a powerful Reporting™ wizard capable of creating unlimited ad-hoc (customized) reports, and establishing standardized reports that are utilized repeatedly by agency personnel. Users simply select the applicable timeframe and data elements, and instant access is provided to reports regarding incident locations, statistical trends, officer activity, etc. ReportBeam also provides the ability to drill down into specific data elements and report variables.

Data-mapping – In addition to the traditional charts and graphs provided with the Reporting module, ReportBeam includes complete Geospatial / Data-Mapping analysis capabilities. The Geospatial Analysis™ module enables users to display all of the data points (within a report) on an aerial map of the identified location. The ability to view report data on a map provides a graphical view of trouble/problem areas where incidents continue to occur.

Online Access – In addition to providing access to agency personnel, selected documents/forms can also be made available to the public with the ReportBeam eCommerce™ module. Providing copies of crash reports to involved parties, insurance companies, and lawyers has always been a strain on an agency’s Records Department. The ReportBeam™ solution enables agencies to provide (or sell) these documents/forms to the public through a secure Internet portal.

Training

The training for officers is relatively short. The Cook County Clerk’s Office provided the training for supervisors as well as select officers. The training program was developed as a train-the-trainer program, whereas officers trained by the Clerk’s Office, would train their fellow officers. Within two weeks, the training for all department officers and clerks was complete, the hardware and software testing was complete, and the system was operational on the street.

South Barrington Officer Jason Axelrod was one of the officers who underwent the three-hour training block. Included in the session was a hands-on training segment wherein each officer was required to create several mock tickets. The E-Ticketing software has built-in fail-safes, as the software will not allow a ticket to be printed that has incomplete information. Each required field is highlighted in red, to identity to the officer that it’s a mandatory field. This feature alone gives the officer additional confidence when using the new system.

The use of this new system virtually cuts the time needed to issue a traffic ticket in half. There is less time for the violator to escalate his behavior toward the officer, and a reduction in exposure of the officer’s vehicle being struck by another vehicle. In addition, Axelrod has observed that many of those receiving tickets have appreciated the fact they could be on their way considerably faster than with traditional methods. This is especially true in the case of an officer issuing multiple tickets.

Writing the Ticket

At the beginning of the shift, each officer will sign into the E-Ticket software with his/her own username and password. Each officer’s account maintains his/her name, badge number, electronic signature and court information. This allows the officer to go between cars or computers, and allows his/her information to follow him/her without re-entry.

The E-Ticket software works side by side with the agency’s CAD software. An officer will check the driver’s license and vehicle registration through his/her agency’s CAD software as he/she would when doing a handwritten ticket. The officer will then enter the E-Ticket software, which is running in the background and mirrors the current look of a handwritten ticket, aiding in familiarity to the officer.

All required fields that must be completed by the officer are highlighted in red; yellow fields are optional. Three options are then offered; the officer is able to select “Citation”, “Written Warning” or “Verbal Warning” from a drop-down box.

The next section is the “Defendant” or “Driver” Section. A pop-up window displays the last 10 drivers who were run through the CAD by the particular officer. After the officer selects the name of the driver, the system will import the driver’s license information into the required fields. The officer has the ability to change any of this imported information, should something such as the address not being current.

Another option for an agency that utilizes barcode scanners is they can scan/swipe a driver’s license to import information. (This system does not require a barcode scanner or magnetic strip swipe for information, so it can be used with all generations of driver’s licenses.)

The “Vehicle” section provides a pop-up window similar to the defendant section, which displays the last 10 license plates run through the CAD. After the officer selects the license plate, the system will import the vehicle registration information into the required fields. The date and time of the stop are automatically entered onto the citation upon creation of the ticket.

The next section is the “Location” of the occurrence – all of the relevant streets in town are listed, reducing spelling errors. Drop-down boxes also allow the officer to add information such as the direction of travel.

The “Violation” section has a couple of options. If the violation is merely a speeding ticket, the officer only needs to enter the defendant’s speed and the speed limit into the speed fields. The software will then apply the correct vehicle code section dependant on the amount of mph over the limit. For other violations, there is a pop-up where officers can either enter the vehicle code section if they know it offhand, or they can begin to type the violation they are seeking, such as seat belt, to narrow down their choices.

The “Incident” section allows for an officer to notate road conditions, visibility, accident information, as well as other mitigating circumstances. There is also an officer notation field, where the officer can add additional information that will appear on the face of the ticket. The “Bond” section has check boxes for the officer to select in what form bond will be secured, such as by bond card, credit card, cash, signature or other means.

The system will recognize if the violation warrants a mandatory court appearance or not, due to parameters set by the Cook County Clerk’s Office. If a court appearance is required, the system will notate this on the ticket, along with the officer’s court date, time and room number. This removes the opportunity for error on the officer’s part, as it’s automated.

The system also can recognize the difference between a traffic violation, and an arrestable offense, which may warrant a mandatory court appearance or different court information. The final section allows the officer to digitally sign the ticket.

Under the former system, the information – hastily written by the officer out in traffic and trying to observe driver behavior – is now available in printed format. This eliminates any translation by a court employee, which led to mistakes in the recording of times of appearance or court rooms.

Early Reports of Success

“I love the system. Anyone who can use a computer can use this system,” Williams stated. To date, the County Clerk’s Office has had no complaints regarding the installation of or the application of the system to ticket writing.

Hon. Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, said early reports of the system justify her goal of “electronically integrating justice across the county, one system, one agency at a time” until all 128 municipalities are employing the new system. The initial cost of the system in Cook County was $905,000. Cook County picked up the cost of the new system with the exception of the small, compact thermal printer, which prints the actual ticket.

Brown estimates that once the system has been fully implemented, the Clerk’s Office will save the $195,000 cost to printing tickets as well as $438,000 in data entry costs for the personnel formerly needed for the encoding of data. That is an annual savings of $633,000. This hard savings is in addition to officer safety, system efficiency, immediate access and data-sharing.

Sharon F. Kissane, Ph.D., is a graduate of the Citizens Police Academy in Schaumburg, Ill. She may be reached at kissanecom@sbcglobal.net. Photos by Sandra Lee Amen Sullivan.

Published in Law and Order, May 2012

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