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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Computerized traffic tickets coming to a NH cruiser near you

It takes a lot of different skills to be a police officer, but with networked computer systems about to have more of a presence in cruisers, penmanship isn’t necessarily one of them.

An eTicket system being installed in some state police cruisers, and a variant for local departments about to be test in Pelham, Windham and Salem cruisers, could end the days of officers hand-writing speeding tickets while offending motorists sit in their cars and wait. ...

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It takes a lot of different skills to be a police officer, but with networked computer systems about to have more of a presence in cruisers, penmanship isn’t necessarily one of them.

An eTicket system being installed in some state police cruisers, and a variant for local departments about to be test in Pelham, Windham and Salem cruisers, could end the days of officers hand-writing speeding tickets while offending motorists sit in their cars and wait.

“Right now, my officers have to literally sit there and write out each ticket. This will get them back out on patrol faster,” said Lt. Gary Fisher of the Pelham Police Department.

The department is about to get software and at least one in-cruiser printer for testing. The system is made by TriTech Software of California, which develops a variety of public-safety systems.

Instead of writing tickets, then typing them into a database later, officers will be able to type in the information, or scan it directly from driver’s licenses, and print out the ticket in their cruiser.

“It will take it down from 10 or 11 minutes doing it on paper down to 2 minutes, doing it electronically,” said Keith Lohmann of the New Hampshire Department of Safety, who manages what is known as the J-ONE program designed to make the courts and Division of Motor Vehicles more computer compatible.

Since it’s dangerous to stand on the side of a highway, there’s an added benefit: “It’s a public safety for both folks driving down the road and the officers involved in a stop,” Lohmann said.

It also should save the court system some time, since more than 54,000 traffic tickets are processed annually in New Hampshire.

The eTicket system isn’t just about reducing paper usage in the snagging of speeders; it’s part of an upgrade designed to increase connectivity between police on the roads and the rest of the legal system.

The complication is that state agencies and courts generally have different computer systems. J-ONE is designed to create a data communications switch that can pass information between the Department of Motor Vehicles case management system into the courts’ case management system.

Beyond the digital interface, it will be necessary to prove the accuracy of the system so it can be used as evidence.

“Basically what has to happen is we have to build up a comfort level in both the courts and DMV that we’re getting the data that we should in the format that we should and there are no glitches,” Lohmann said. “Once that happens, it will be a matter of both the courts and DMV making the switch and saying OK.”

It’s not cheap. Buying 300 printers for state police cruisers will cost about $170,000, including installation and software, Lohmann said.

Much is paid for by federal grants from U.S. Department of Justice and National Traffic Safety Administration, channeled through the governor’s highway safety agency.

Once OK’d by testing in the local departments, the system should be rolled out to 140 local police departments statewide.

David Brooks can be contacted at 594-5831 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@Telegraph_DaveB).