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June 25, 2004
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Case Study: Santa Ana (CA) Police - HP IPAQ's help develop an electronic citation solution

Case Study: Santa Ana California Police

HP IPAQ's help Santa Ana Police develop an electronic citation solution

"We've had officers who would set up on an inter-process. It requires a new notification to be sent to section and use the digital video feature of the iPAQ and actually video the violation itself. That's dramatic evidence that never existed before."
- Lt. Tony Levatino
Santa Ana Police Department

HP No driver wants to see flashing red lights in the rearview mirror. But while most everyone understands the need for traffic safety rules, they probably don't know traffic citations can be as big a headache for police officers as they are for motorists.

Police officials in Santa Ana, Calif.- one of the state's 10 largest cities - say handwritten citations from routine traffic stops can trigger paperwork chain reactions that gridlock even the most efficient police departments.

Because traffic citations are legal documents, all misinformation - from incorrect birth dates to errant court dates - must be legally corrected via a citation amendment process. These amendments spawn more paperwork and additional entries into the police department's computer system - where the original citation was entered - as well as separate traffic court databases.

"All of our citations were handwritten," explained Lt.Tony Levatino of the Santa Ana Police Department. "If I made my fours and they look like nines,well we had a problem."Indeed it's a huge - and costly - issue for the busy department.

"Approximately 50 percent of all our citations that are written end up being defective in some fashion or another," said Levatino. "It triggers the amendment process. It requires a new notification to be sent to the officer correcting his error and by registered mail to the violator."

Add the expense of the new paperwork to the already hefty price of the stateauthorized citation books - "We order 70,000 of them at a time," said Levatino - and couple that with the cost of man hours spent filling out paper forms, and the result is an expensive and cumbersome process."It's a mess," Levatino said simply.

No more paper chase

"Santa Ana's citation paperwork is becoming a thing of the past thanks to Levatino's determination and HP iPAQs. The turnaround began simply enough."

"Out of frustration, one of the sergeants and I sat down and asked,'Why can't we do this on a handheld device?'" explained Levatino. "That's when we started using the iPAQ."

With the help of Crossroads Software, based in Brea, Calif., the Santa Ana Police Department was soon on its way to creating an electronic version of its old, in-triplicate, paper citation booklet. After much work, the newly designed digital ticket was submitted to the California State Judicial Council where, after about five months, it was approved for use.

At first, Levatino had concerns over how his motorcycle officers would take to the new technology. Although all Santa Ana officers are issued laptop computers, the city's motorcycle cops had trouble carrying laptops in the saddlebags of their bikes. iPAQs would be much more convenient, but Levatino still was apprehensive.

"Motorcycle officers have a tendency to be your most vocal and resistant to technology," said Levatino. "I worried they would not accept it."

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Now, instead of watching traffic officers draw a thick and worn paper citation book from their pocket, drivers pulled over in Santa Ana receive violation notices via sleek, bright-screened HP iPAQs.

When a citation is to be issued, officers simply swipe the violator's driver's license through a card reader attached to the iPAQ, and the first portion of the citation is automatically filled with all pertinent - and accurate - personal information.

No more incorrect birth dates or illegible addresses.

Officers complete the remainder of the citation using a series of drop-down menus that allow them to choose the appropriate vehiclecode section numbers and other information, leaving less opportunity for error.

Once the citation form is complete, the officer collects an electronic signature from the driver.

"We actually have come up with a system where we've cut a hole in the front of the iPAQ cover that's the same dimension as the [signature] box," said Levatino. "We hand the iPAQ to the violator, he signs in the box, then we're done."Officers print out a copy of the ticket on a portable thermal printer and send motorists on their way.

Officers print out a copy of the ticket on a portable thermal printer and send motorists on their way.

All citation information is written to a Secure Digital flash memory card (SD card). Back at the station, officers simply log into their system and download the citations into the department's database.

Making the case

Besides eliminating errors, iPAQs help Santa Ana traffic officers collect better evidence. A "tape recorder" feature on the handheld device permits officers to keep audio records of traffic stops, and a camera accessory allows officers to gather images. An attached reader also captures 500 dpi bitmap images of violators' thumbprints.

"Later on, if someone says, 'I did not receive that citation. It was my cousin who was using my license and name,' we can take that bitmap data file of the thumbprint and we can have the violator put his thumbprint on a thumbprint, scanner and see if it recognizes it," said Levatino. "And if we have an image of his face, now we have evidence that we never had before."

"We've had officers who would set up on an intersection and use the digital video feature of the iPAQ and actually video the violation itself," said Levatino. "That's dramatic evidence that never existed before."

Even more dramatic are the results of the all-digital ticketing system. "Bottom line is we took what was close to a 50 percent error rate, and in the first trial run, we brought that down to 8 percent," said Levatino. "Now our error rate is down to less than 1 percent." Levatino said the savings in cost and staff time - measured in hundreds of man-hours - is "just phenomenal."

More of a good thing

"We've had officers who would set up on an intersection and use the digital video feature of the iPAQ and actually video the violation itself," said Levatino. "That's dramatic evidence that never existed before."

Currently 25 motorcycle officers and 15 patrol officers carry iPAQs. Eventually Levatino expects to equip all of the department's 400 officers with the devices, complementing the laptops that already were issued.

"I think they need both [laptops and iPAQs]," said Levatino. "When an officer gets out of his car and walks into an apartment complex, then he can use his iPAQ to query databases and/or communicate with the station." iPAQs also are ideal for officers who patrol on bicycle or horseback.

The department used funds from a traffic grant to implement the new technology, and Levatino expects to quickly add new capabilities.

Future plans include:

  • Purchasing foldable keyboards for the iPAQs
  • Building an infrastructure that will allow officers to wirelessly upload citation information without returning to the office
  • Providing wireless access to the department's database of booking photographs and other information resources
  • Developing electronic versions of a variety of other police reports.
As the use of iPAQs in the traffic division already has proven, the potential time and cost savings are extraordinary. Of course, the most important aspect of the new technology is that it strengthens public safety by making officers more effective and efficient.

"They take a great amount of pride in the iPAQ technology. Officers are enthusiastic about it, and they're using it," said Levatino. "The potential's unlimited."

iPAQs also are ideal for officers who patrol on bicycle or horseback.

Customer Snapshot

  • Agency: The Santa Ana, California, Police Department
  • Mission: The Santa Ana Police Department provides security and protection to nearly 338,000 residents in California's ninth largest city.
Business Case
  • Requirement: Reduce high cost in both staff time and paperwork caused by a 50 percent error rate on handwritten traffic violations issued by officers using old-fashion citation books.
  • Solution: Develop an electronic citation solution based on HP iPAQs and mobile printers that allow violations to be issued to citizens in hard copy.
  • Results: The electronic citation solution reduced the 50 percent citation inaccuracy rate to less than 1 percent. iPAQs allow for easy uploading of electronic citation information to a central database, avoiding transcription mistakes that require costly and time-consuming amendment paperwork.
"They take a great amount of pride in the iPAQ technology. Officers are enthusiastic about it, and they're using it," said Levatino. "The potential's unlimited."

For more information on how working with HP can benefit you, contact your local HP service representative, or visit us through the Internet at our world wide web address: www.hp.com

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