Traffic tickets go high tech

December 22, 2008

By Chantelle Lusebrink

City implements new program to expedite traffic services

E-tickets? It’s not what you think.

Issaquah police officers won’t be e-mailing you a ticket in the near future, but they will be able to fill out a citation for your traffic violation or accident paperwork a lot quicker with the state Department of Transportation’s program, Statewide Electronic Collision and Ticket Online Records, or SECTOR.“To me, it is very exciting,” Issaquah Police Cmdr. Stan Conrad said. “This is probably the single biggest innovation since we put computers in the car. Other departments have tested it, but we’re kind of out in front of it for implementation.”

The program linking Issaquah to the Department of Transportation and the state court system databases is free, as is some of the hardware, like the scanner and computer equipment to run it. To equip 13 vehicles in the police fleet, city officials authorized $20,000 for additional scanners. 

The scanner enables officers to read the barcode on your driver’s license and your registration and that information is automatically entered onto the citation and accident report information boxes.

The automated system will help reduce clerical errors made by officers in the field regarding the license plate number of the car or the spelling of a name.

“It will save us time all the way around, by eliminating errors or incomplete traffic citations and accident forms,” Conrad said. “It is time consuming to go back and make a correction. For instance, an accident report has statistical data the state requires us to report. This system will make that all automated.”

The program will also save time in the field, where it takes about 15-20 minutes to complete all of the paperwork on a citation or accident, he said.

“We estimate that patrol officers will reduce the time it takes to write a ticket by half,” he said. “That time will be spent on more preventative patrol activity.”

Reductions in the amount of time officers spend in court are also expected, Conrad said. There are people who try to have their tickets thrown out due to errors. With fewer errors, fewer people may contest their tickets on those grounds.

The program will also increase officers’ safety in the field, Conrad said. Instead of being distracted by paperwork, officers can keep a vigilant eye out for other vehicles near the accident or drivers receiving violations, he added.

Three officers began field-testing the program last week. Over the next few months, the officers will test the system and develop procedures for its use by all other officers.

“The officers are very excited, because it makes it a lot easier for them to work,” Conrad said.

However, the program doesn’t duplicate records for the police department’s files and police officers will still have to manually input the data in their computer systems. Realizing the cost savings of a program like SECTOR, the Issaquah City Council authorized the department to spend $42,000 to purchase an interface package from the Spillman Corp., which will copy the files from SECTOR to the city’s database automatically, further reducing the time invested in paperwork.

“We estimate police records will reduce the time necessary to enter and process citation and collision reports by approximately one-fourth to one-third full-time records clerk,” Conrad wrote in an e-mail. “That time will be spent on increased volume of records and disclosure requests, weapons transfers checks, and concealed weapons applications and permits.”

City officials are also looking into the benefit the Spillman software could have if it can link to other departments’ systems that use police accident statistics, like the Public Works Department.

Currently, engineers with the city manually input accident information, like the type of collision, time of day and weather conditions, into their database to help determine what road projects are needed to improve roadway safety, said Gary Costa, city transportation manager.

Testing as to whether the Spillman system will link with their current software still needs to be conducted. But if the systems are able to share information, it could save Public Works’ engineers time, he said.

Because the department is helping test the software implementation for Spillman, the company offered the interface package at one-third its actual cost, $60,000.

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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