SLC Writes Tickets by Hand; System Is Fully Automated

John Van Horn

Salt Lake City’s Gary Griffiths had a problem. He was having an average of 2300 of his parking citations reduced or dismissed by the court each month typically because of errors, lack of photo’s or timeliness on the part of the parking enforcement officer. He was also at a point where he needed to replace the hand held units his
officers used.
In addition, he was unable to have an automated system for all his enforcement staff. While his on street parking enforcement officers did carry automated equipment, the police, airport, and others wrote tickets by hand. This caused data input issues.
After some research he decided to replace his hand held ticket writing equipment with a technology that allows all his officers to actually write their tickets by hand, and simultaneously have the data downloaded to his central office in a digital form.
The System, called VShield, uses a paper-based citation, without a handheld computer and still delivers real time citation automation. Its web-based service delivers mobile citation issuance, work flow automation, enterprise application integration, third-party data base interaction and real time mobile messaging.
The system delivers real time citation specific messages right to the officer’s cell phone. It allows enforcement supervisors to manage their officers, as they are carrying out their duties. They will now know, at any point in time where their officers are and how they are performing. Hearing officers can view essential citation data as it happens and see what the officer saw when the citation was written. Citation recipients gain immediate web-based access to their citation and know with surety what the citation was for, where they were when they received it and how they can pay for it online.
“We have a special “pen” that the officers use to write the tickets,” says Griffiths, head of the city’s compliance division. “The pen captures the data and transmits it through the officers’ cell phone, in our case its Nextel/Sprint, to our central office. If needed, the officer can take a photo of the car at the site, including a shot of the license number or of a violation (too close to a driveway, in front of a hydrant). That photo is tied to the citation, along with a date time stamp and GPS location. Also, the officer can add a voice record such as telling the hearing officer that the violator drove off before he was able to give them the citation.”
“It means that there are few if any errors. Training is almost nonexistent, since the officer simply fills in the data on the citation. We can have officers trained and writing citations in a few minutes. This is particularly beneficial for those like the police who only write a few tickets in the course of their duties. And it means that everyone is using the same system.”
“With our previous system, the data about the ticket was downloaded into our central system nightly. So if a person wanted to pay their citation on they day they received it, it was impossible since the hearing officer didn’t have any data on the ticket. Now that information about the ticket is there in real time.”
“We had an interesting incident. A person came in to pay their ticket, and as the hearing officer was looking at the original citation, he noticed that the vehicle had a second citation, one that had been written five minutes before. Seems the person had parked in a handicapped parking area while they were visiting city hall to pay their first ticket, and got a second one. Both citations were collected at the same time.”
The pen has a built in battery and a life of about10 hours. That means that it will run an entire shift. They are recharged overnight and ready for the next day.
“We had a few complaints from some of our officers about using the hand helds, they are heavy and there is the second piece of the package, the printer. We also had a loss problem. Officers would leave the units on the roof of the vehicle and drive off. We would have a broken unit. Those issues have all disappeared
The biggest concern for Griffiths was the voided tickets. “With over 2000 tickets a month being voided or reduced, and considering that our officers write about 10,000 a month, that’s as if we have two full time employees that aren’t earning their keep. Now are dismissal rate is around 335 a month, a reduction of 87%.”
If an officer happens across a vehicle that has an issue (stolen, numerous unpaid violations, etc) the central system will send a text message to the officer’s phone and notify them of the problem so appropriate action can be taken.
Financially it’s a boon for the city. Not only are they collecting more citation revenue (that wasn’t our intention, says Griffiths) but their investment in equipment is about 65% less than with previous systems.
“Technology moves quickly,” Griffiths adds. “Our citation writing equipment would become obsolete and we would be forced to replace it. I don’t see this happening so quickly with the new system.” “Paper is easy to change.”

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Article Abstract from December, 2006

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