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License reader helps increase accuracy of data capture

Scanning technology is being used in all areas of law enforcement from controversial eye scanning to track suspects and prisoners in the penal system to fast smart scan technology to identify stolen vehicles, suspended licenses and issue traffic violations in seconds.

While it’s never too late to implement these solutions that promise productivity and revenue boosts, there are a few early adopters who continue to be at the forefront. The Marion Police Department in Iowa began rolling out automated accident-reporting systems in 1998 and e-citations in 2002. In fact, the department, which serves a community of 30,000, was one of the first in the state to adopt the ecitations technology.

While the department was happy with the Honeywell 4710 License Reader, a 2D Image Scanner it adopted about seven years ago, it wasn’t perfect. Officers needed to perfectly align licenses to capture an accurate scan, and it was difficult to get a reading of faded and worn licenses.

Enter the Honeywell 4810 License Reader, offered and created by L-Tron Corp. and Honeywell Corp. Marion Captain Michael De La Mater said his department agreed to beta test the new scanners in 2008 when there was an upgrade in its Traffic and Criminal Software (TraCS) that offered more functionality through the 4810LR. It installed 11 scanners in marked patrol cars and several in the office. The benefits were significant.

“It was noticeably faster than the 4710,” Captain De La Mater said. “It just picks up the information immediately.”

Captain De La Mater said his officers no longer “had to be straight on” while scanning documents. Not only is the 4810 faster at scanning 2D bar codes, especially those on worn-out driver’s licenses, registration cards and vehicle identification numbers, but it also taps Honeywell’s Adaptus Imaging Technology to do a high-quality image capture of those documents, as well a driver’s signature.

Improved accuracy can mean more revenue. For instance, Kentucky officers using the 4810 help reduce ticket dismissal by as much as 10 percent, according to a Kentucky State Police study. It analyzed bar code data from driver’s licenses that was input directly into the Kentucky State Police e-citation and e-crash software.

In Marion, “I’m sure we have had fewer cases dismissed because of accuracy,” Captain De La Mater said, adding that overall, “things move through the system faster.”

Compared to the paper system of processing a citation, which could take up to 12 days, electronically it takes a few seconds. Also, crash reports that take 18 months to travel from reporting office to the U.S. Department of Transportation, travel electronically in about eight hours, according to research from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Having access to fast and reliable data has also become critical for the Marion Police Department, as it provides it with the ability to do electronic analysis, such as generating fast reports identifying highproblem crime areas, to which it can redirect patrol activity.

But one of the most enduring features of the 4810, which is currently installed in patrol cars in 15 states, is its design: It’s compact, rugged and portable, fitting on patrol car dashboards with a small custommounted bracket.

When L-Tron partnered with Honeywell to design the 4810, it strove to improve upon the previous generation of hand-held scanners that were bulky and could come loose and fly around a patrol car, especially if it had to take off suddenly, said L-Tron President Rad DeRose. “One of the goals with this product was to make sure it stored safely and compactly because there’s a premium on space,” De Rose said.

That, combined with its durability is something that Captain De La Mater said his department has always liked. “We’ve had L-Tron scanners for seven to eight years,” he said, “and I don’t think we’ve ever had a failure.”

Photo courtesy of L-Tron.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jan/Feb 2011

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