New in-car computer system a useful tool and a timesaver for village PD
The days of the ticket book are over in Granville.
Thanks to a grant administered by the New York State Police Granville Village Police Department has joined law enforcement agencies in utilizing time-saving computer software known as TraCS.
Police Chief Ernie Bassett Jr. said the computers and software are significant time and labor savers as well as helping with information sharing between law enforcement and other state agencies.
The same system is now being used by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, New York State Police and the village department, Bassett said.
Bassett said Sgt. Dave Williams has installed the system in three village police cars as well as receiving training in the system.
Asked to estimate what kind of time savings are involved, Williams said he could only guess, “It just means more patrol time in the end.”
Bassett said the department became aware of the opportunity for a grant, applied for it in late 2006, early 2007 and began installing the hardware about six months ago. The system is now fully functional.
The grant ended up paying for the installation of complete set-ups in the cars of the department, saving the taxpayers $21,000 – $25,000, Bassett said.
The grant paid for ‘rugged’ computers that contain a durable laptop PC, a printer and the necessary software for operation of the system.
“We told them the number of cars we had, what equipment we needed and then applied,” Williams said.
Further taxpayer savings were realized when the department was able to attend a training session set up for the Washington County Sheriff’s Department in Fort Edward. Williams was able to attend the training at no cost.
The department also saved money by installing the systems themselves, he said.
As the officers also did when they received the in-car camera systems, officers spent their spare time installing the systems and getting them set up in the cars.
The unit helps to automate the process of issuing tickets, Williams said, decreasing the amount of time needed to issue a ticket for the arresting officer particularly multiple tickets.
Thanks to printed tickets and the electronic flow of information the system produces more accurate electronic paperwork, eliminating the delays and problems associated with hand-written tickets.
Village and Town Judge Roger Forando said this was one case where computers had definitely made life easier. “It streamlines the paperwork…it’s quicker and more efficient, and that’s about it – it just makes everything a lot easier,” he said.
The system also decreases the amount of duplicated effort – an officer no longer had to write through a multi-layer stack of copies where one copy goes to the motorist, one to the court, one to Department of Motor Vehicles and another copy for the officer. Williams said data entered into the system can be made available to the department of transportation where reports are generated highlighting accident-prone or dangerous intersections among other functions the date is used to create.
The computer system allows patrol officers to scan the bar code on a driver’s license and instantly have all of their vital information off of that permit.
Several advantages exist to going this route, Williams said.
On a scene with multiple witnesses or subjects, whether it is an accident or the scene of a large fight, police are able to track statements given to them by simply making a scan of each person’s drivers license.
When issuing a traffic ticket the ‘neatness counts’ aspect of the system ensures court clerks or judges can read the ticket when it shows up in front of them; drivers have no questions about where to go or what to do, nothing is left to chance, Williams said. “In the past, its made for some headaches at the court level,” Williams said of the old hand written ticket system. Confusion over handwriting of names or addresses sometimes confused court clerks or judges, he said.
Police can issue multiple tickets to one suspect as well, without writing out all information again and again
“It takes seconds compared to what it used to take,” Williams said. Williams performed a demonstration for the reporter, ticketing a dummy license used for training several times. The officer was able to explain the steps he was taking and enter the information for four citations in well under 10 minutes – a process which might have taken that amount of time for each hand written ticket before TraCS.
The system also contains the forms most often used by police from accident reports, appearance tickets to the “driving while intoxicated bill of particulars and supporting deposition,” Williams said.
The goal, Williams said, was to become a ‘paperless’ agency.
Reports are now sent to the state electronically, those same reports once had to be separated into bundles, packaged up and shipped to the TSLED office, courts and the department of motor vehicles dramatically increasing the odds of paperwork getting lost, mutilated or destroyed
The TraCS system also has a built in safeguard against tampering, Williams said.
Within the system, officers can redo tickets on which they make mistakes, but cannot eliminate a ticket once it’s been issued; only a supervisor can do that and the action would be noted and would leave a trace.
“No one can fix tickets this way,” Williams said.
Williams said the system becomes a serious time-saver once the officers get acquainted with it, “Oh it is (faster) the first few times it seems slower because you’re used to writing out tickets longhand, but once you get used to it, it’s quicker by far,” Williams said
Another feature of the system allows it to function similar to the ‘plate hunter’ system used by some departments.
This version does not have a roof-mounted scanner – license plate numbers must be entered manually – however, the result is similar.
Plate numbers entered into the computer are compared with a database of “bad” plate numbers which is updated on a daily basis seeking registration suspensions, reported stolen vehicles and “special files” or plates wanted by law enforcement for various reasons.
Currently the system only accesses i
nformation available from participating states and agencies, he said. “More states are coming on board all the time,” Williams said.