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Vehicle-rugged mobile computing system speeds up ticketing process for MD sheriff’s office

 

The Office of the Sheriff for Queen Anne’s County, MD, serves its citizens with a commitment that has been unwavering for more than 200 years. The Sheriff and deputies patrol 372 square miles of Queen Anne’s County and provide police services to a population of nearly 50,000 residents, tourists and commuters 365 days a year from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Delaware State Line.

With the ever increasing complexities of modern law enforcement, the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office has become committed to specialized training and technology support for its personnel, which equips today’s law enforcement officials and first responders with the tools, knowledge and skills needed to effectively perform their duties in the most efficient, productive and, above all, safe manner.

Problem

The manual ticket and report generation took valuable time away from policing the streets. Determining the right level of durability in a notebook was the key to a solution. At the onset of implementing its mobile computing system, the Sheriff’s Office knew it wanted a system that would provide the mobility needed to turn its police vehicles into mobile offices so officers could spend less time at headquarters writing reports, and more time in their cars on patrol. In addition, they were looking to set up a mobile computing system that would reduce the amount of communications resources used for dispatching officers, offer constant reliability and real time information such as license, registration and VIN information when the situation demanded it, and the means to more efficiently generate citations.

Early in the deployment, the Sheriff’s Office selected a system with fully rugged notebooks that could easily withstand rigorous outdoor and in-vehicle environments. While the fully rugged notebooks could withstand a great deal of harsh handling under any circumstances, the Sheriff’s Office found over time that this level of ruggedness was more than what they needed.

“We were looking for notebooks that supported our officers’ needs for issuing tickets, doing background checks, writing and filing reports and more—most of which can be done from their vehicles,” said Corporal Sean Hampton, of Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office. “While we needed a notebook that was durable, officers in the vehicle environment don’t have to deal with a downpour of rain on, or frequent drops of their notebooks. It offered extra rugged features we just didn’t need.”

Solution

The mobile computing system implemented by the Sheriff’s Office includes “vehicle-rugged” notebooks from General Dynamics- Itronix: the GoBook VR-2 and its successor the GD6000. Well into the implementation, the Sheriff’s Office replaced the majority of its original rugged notebooks with the lighter, vehicle-rugged notebooks, which are the only notebooks available that are optimized for vehicle deployments. This means they meet the fully rugged standards for extreme temperature, vibration, dust ingress and humidity—conditions most often associated with a vehicle environment. In addition, they survive punishing 30-inch drops, come with a spill-resistant keyboard, dual task lights, and the industry’s best 13.3-inch outdoor viewable touchscreen display featuring patent-pending DynaVue® technology.

“With the vehicle-rugged notebooks from General Dynamics- Itronix, we’re assured that the notebooks will withstand the hazards that vehicle use imposes—really hot or cold temperatures and a lot of bumps and vibration. What we didn’t need were notebooks that were going to be left out in a rainstorm, or carried around and dropped on a frequent basis. As a result, we were able to reduce our costs by not paying for the extra ruggedness.”

The system also includes Pentax Pocket Jet 3 thermal printers, which print out traffic tickets from the notebooks using Bluetooth. With an Electronic Traffic Information Exchange (E-Tix) e-citation system, officers can generate tickets far more quickly and efficiently than by manually handwriting them.

The vehicle rugged notebooks also have options for integrated GPS, WWAN and WLAN, for always-on connectivity. With powerful wireless capabilities, officers not only create and send reports from their vehicles electronically, they’re able to gather invaluable information through the Capital Wireless Information Net (CapWIN) such as background checks, license plate numbers and VINs that prepare them for each situation they engage in. Information regarding prior arrests, mug shots and protective orders can be accessed in real-time from crime databases, which further prepare officers before entering a potential crime scene. While the saying goes that knowledge is power, in the case of law enforcement, knowledge is safety.

In Motion Technology’s onBoard Mobile Gateway delivers high-performance, high-security, wireless broadband networking for mobile applications by turning vehicles into communications hotspots. The gateway allows back and forth connectivity between air cards and Wi-Fi and provides GPS locations of officer vehicles through the County’s automatic vehicle locator (AVL) program.

Finally, a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system more efficiently dispatches officers to a scene, while reducing the communications traffic previously conducted over the radio. The system enables routing and information sent instantaneously to police vehicles when a 9-1-1 call is received, and using Mobile Area Routing & Vehicle Location Information System (MARVLIS) software with GPS determines the best route for an ambulance to pursue in emergency cases.

Results

The Queen Anne’s County mobile computing system has virtually turned law enforcement vehicles into mobile offices, with officers enabled to perform administrative tasks electronically in lieu of making trips to and from the central office. Manually written reports and citations are a thing of the past. With the E-Tix citation system, multiple citations can be generated in a three- to five-minute period, compared to the 15 minutes it takes to write one handwritten ticket. In addition, with electronic tickets being easier to read than handwritten versions, fewer disputes are going to court, saving valuable on-the-job time.

Even more important, wireless capabilities provide critical, real-time access to information that can improve both officer and public safety. With the expanding use of in-car video and neighborhood surveillance cameras, officers can stay on top of multiple high-risk areas simultaneously and react to criminal action more quickly than before. The MARVLIS system helps EMS workers get to emergency situations more quickly, possibly saving more lives.

At the hub of the system is the General Dynamics - Itronix vehicle-rugged notebook—tough enough for vehicle use, but more cost effective than its fully rugged brethren, rounding out the efficiencies achieved by the Queen Anne’s Sheriff’s Office. “The General Dynamics - Itronix vehicle-rugged notebooks, in combination with all the components in our mobile computing system, give our law enforcement officers and first responders many capabilities they didn’t have before,” said Brad Smith, Data Manager for Queen Anne’s County, Department of Emergency Services. “Each brings a wealth of time-saving—even life-saving—information and tools to the field and has rapid access to the County’s infrastructure and resources. The system is truly an integral component of our service to the community,” Smith said.

Published in Public Safety IT, Sep/Oct 2009

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