Rogers joins cities using e-ticketing systems

ROGERS -- The scan and print function of a new electronic ticketing system in Rogers will save time during traffic stops, officers said.

Carbon copy tickets can get lost, stuck to other papers or misfiled, but the digital system gets rid of that, said Lt. Mike Johnson, support services division.

Who uses e-tickets?

Bentonville, Fayetteville and Rogers use digital systems to scan driver’s licenses and print tickets during traffic stops for misdemeanor citations.

Source: Staff report

To write a ticket now, an officer scans a driver's license, selects the offense from a drop-down menu and prints a ticket from inside the patrol vehicle.

Law enforcement agencies around the region are divided on their adoption of a digital system for misdemeanor tickets.

Springdale is considering the option as are the Washington County and Benton County sheriff offices, spokesmen said.

Bentonville has used electronic ticketing for two years.

"So far it has really streamlined things, especially on the court side," said Jon Simpson, Bentonville police chief.

Although there's no perfect technology, using a digital system has led to increased accuracy, Simpson said.

It also helps with documentation. If an officer writes a ticket for something like a lack of tread on tires, then he or she can take a picture and attach that to court documents through the electronic system.

Fayetteville has had an electronic ticketing system since 2008, said Sgt. Craig Stout, spokesman.

The department is working on an upgrade to its reporting system software so it can link more information. Plans for migrating information are underway, but it will likely take more than a year, Stout said.

The ticketing system for misdemeanor infractions went live in Rogers in July. Before then officers wrote out the carbon copy tickets by hand, sent them on to a supervisor who sent a copy to the court and a copy to the records department. It could take a week and a half for a person to be able to pay a ticket, Johnson said.

There is still a slight delay because although the information is sent directly to the court it has to be retyped into the court software, said Connie Watson, court clerk for the Rogers division of the District Court of Benton County. Programmers have told her that soon they'll be able to test importing the person's name, date and charges directly into her software. Even with retyping it is a better system, Watson said.

"At least we can read them now," she said.

The police department planned for six months to get the system off the ground, Johnson said.

"It's not just one of those things you just plug and play," he said.

There are limitations, Johnson said.

Officers have to check a person's driver's license for outstanding warrants against a different system. The digital systems used by cities do not coordinate with county court so felony level offenses cannot be cited.

The primary problem after the July 6 rollout in Rogers was the equipment shaking loose in the vehicles and officers plugging the printer into a computer port it wasn't configured for, said Sgt. Troy Curby, support services.

The software helps supervisors see if an officer is busy. Many officers make a lot of stops, but don't write many tickets, Curby said. The software documents warnings.

The data officers produce also shows if they're writing a lot of post-accident tickets at a certain intersection, Curby said. Just having an officer visible at a dangerous intersection during a peak accident hour might make drivers more apt to obey traffic laws, Johnson said.

For the driver not much has changed. A paper ticket is still issued.

Curby tests the system for Rogers. He picks up what looks like a grocery scanner, scans his driver's license and his name and address pops up on his computer screen. He selects his race, the offense for the ticket and prints off what looks like a wide and very long receipt that has his court date. Were he issuing a ticket he would have go through one more screen to submit the information to the court system.

Because he uses his own information to test the system he might be the most almost-ticketed person in Rogers.

"That guy just doesn't learn," Curby quips.

Purchasing the system was a balance of cost and convenience, Curby said.

Putting a barcode scanner and ticket printer in 75 cars and one in the department cost $141,501. The money was budgeted for 2015 and partially paid for through court automation money, Johnson said.

Having the e-ticketing system in place will make a traffic stop faster, but it's not going to make officers write more tickets, Johnson said.

In September 2014 there were 387 traffic tickets given in Rogers. In September 2015 there were 344. In October 2014 there were 379 traffic tickets written in Rogers. In October 2015 that number increased to 385. The six extra tickets could have been the difference between having a couple extra wrecks, Johnson said.

NW News on 11/15/2015