Thanks to a new digital pen-andpaper system, public safety officers in Brookline, Mass., a suburb of Boston, are issuing parking tickets more efficiently.
Along with upgrading the ticket writing process, the system has reduced the paper trail and cut down on administrative tasks performed throughout the police department.
The system allows officers to write tickets with a digital pen that scans the writer’s strokes and automatically sends what is written digitally to the town’s website. The ticket-writer then uses a cell phone to take photos of the vehicle’s location, license plate and expired parking meter. As a result, Brookline drivers have found it more difficult to contest tickets. The technology also allows officers to identify and locate cars that have unpaid parking tickets.
The system that makes this possible is Velosum
’s vCitePlus, a citation-management solution based on digital pen-and-paper technology from Anoto Inc.,
which enables officers to upload parking citations to the Internet, reducing the need for manual data entry. Based in Sandy, Utah, Velosum provides digital acquisition and Internet-based, on-demand portal technologies. Anoto invented the digital pen-and-paper technology, which enables transmission of handwritten text into a digital format. Anoto licenses the technology to Velosum and a network of partners, covering a wide range of industries.
Captain Michael Gropman of the Brookline Police Traffic Division is a big fan of the system. “It has truly exceeded our expectations,” he said. “The best part of the solution is that it requires no training; it’s business as usual for us, just conducted in real time.” Before the system was put into place, the township of Brookline, an upscale community plagued by traffic congestion, had been issuing 160,000 hand-written parking citations every year, resulting in timeconsuming data entry. In a January 2009 report, Brookline’s Efficiency Initiative Committee suggested the use of hand-held technology could improve parking ticket processing and increase city revenues.
Brookline installed vCitePlus—equipping officers with a Motorola 580 cell phone, an Anoto digital pen and pre-printed citation tickets featuring Anoto’s dot pattern. With the digital citation system, Brookline officers now can write citations and transmit the content via Bluetooth to cell phones, which populate the town’s secure database.
In addition, officers can take photos with their cell phones and transmit the images along with the completed citations, providing photographic evidence. The cell phone automatically attaches a GPS location tag and a time-and-date stamp, providing evidence of when and where the citation was issued. This photographic evidence, along with the digital entry of citations, has been a boon to citation hearing officers, increasing the amount of paid citations while reducing the administrative burden. The system also allows violators to pay fines online, synchronizing with Brookline’s records management database to ensure that all systems have current information on citations, payments and appeals.
Gropman said the system has solved a basic problem brought about by poor penmanship. “We issue 160,000 tickets per year and each violation is handwritten,” he explained. “This led to a duplication of effort as clerical staff was required to hand enter each ticket. There were high error rates due to legibility issues. This created even more work as notifications and demands were sometimes sent to the wrong vehicle owners.”
The digital pen-and-paper system solved other problems as well. “Each public safety officer was furnished with his own unit and instead of hand entering 160,000 tickets, 80,000 were downloaded automatically,” he explained. “The error rate in parking control dropped significantly because of a tri-level screening process built into our system.” Tri-level screening is comprised of the initial entry, Velosum review (flagging) and supervisory review.
Photo capability has been a welcome addition as well. “Hearing officers now can rely on firsthand accounts (photos) of the violations,” Gropman noted. “Violators can actually review the photos of the violation online, and this has reduced the number of hearings. We had a 5 percent rate of appeal, and we are hoping this will drop off considerably because we only have three hearing officers.”
Gropman offers this example of how the system has improved efficiency. “We had a particularly difficult appellant who walked in and his first words were, ‘Who do I sue?’ Not a great way to start a hearing,” he stated. “When a photo was displayed of a clear violation (his vehicle parked within an intersection), the appellant was chastised by the hearing officer because he had created a public safety hazard. The appellant left the hearing with an apology and a newfound appreciation for our technology.”
Gropman believes that digital pen-and-paper technology can help other public safety organizations in the near future. “The state of Massachusetts is currently in the exploratory phases of e-citation. This digital pen-and-paper technology could be a tremendous resource,” he commented. “In addition, we are reviewing our entire municipal permitting system to see if we can integrate it with police department technology. We are hoping this type of interdepartmental capability will increase efficiency for police, fire and code enforcement.”
Pietro Parravicini, president and CEO of Anoto Inc., also sees potential for growth, noting that digital penand- paper technology has proven to be a cost-effective way to transform data-intensive, paper-based processes into automated procedures. Anoto operates through a global partner network that focuses on user-friendly forms solutions for the capture, transmission and storage of data within different business segments.
Velosum, which launched its first vCitePlus application in January 2008, now has 14 public safety customers across the United States. “By streamlining the citation process and capturing photo evidence of violations along with citations, cities such as Brookline can improve collection rates,” said Lee Boardman, president and CEO of Velosum. “In fact, communities such as Provo, Utah, have improved collection rates from 67 percent to 83 percent using these solutions. We’re excited to partner with Anoto to bring this level of productivity to Brookline.” Neal Lorenzi has 20 years of experience in research, reporting, writing, copy-editing and graphic design. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos courtesy of Anoto and Velosum.