VPD to start e-ticketing from the field

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Vicksburg Police Department will soon begin an experimental program to relay information about traffic tickets directly to Municipal Court.
The system, estimated to cost about $95,000, relays information from in-car video cameras directly to the department’s server and implement e-ticketing, where traffic tickets are sent electronically from the traffic stop to the Municipal Court.
“We’re going to set up a pilot program using 12 cars,” city information technology technician Bill Ford told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday. Police Chief Walter Armstrong said after Monday’s board meeting the new systems will be installed in police department’s six traffic division cars and in two cars on each of the department’s three shifts. He added the program should begin in early summer.
“It will not cost the city anything out of the general fund,” Ford said.
Money for the program will come from an account administered by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, one composed of fees for traffic tickets written in the city. Ford said the city receives a $10 fee for each ticket written in the city. He said the money is held in the account and can be used only for automation and technology improvements in the police department.
The board Monday approved asking DPS for $95,801 from the account to pay for the equipment.
Ford said Armstrong asked IT to look at the two projects. He said the project involving the cameras will allow officers to transmit the video to the department’s server, rather than remove the camera’s memory card and physically feed into a reader at the station to download the information. Police use the cameras to record traffic stops and other calls on video.
The e-ticketing, he said, “allows the officer to scan the driver’s license just like you would scan a credit card, and transmit that data to our court system.” Ford said a printer in the police car will print out a copy of the ticket for the driver.
“You eliminate the officer having to handwrite a ticket,” he said.
“This would be a huge benefit to the Vicksburg Police Department,” Armstrong said. “Currently, we are having to download each vehicle (camera) individually in order to capture that (video) data so it can continue to record.”
In the past, Armstrong said, there have been instances where cameras in some cars were full of information and could no longer record, leaving officers without a record of a dangerous situation or a traffic stop.
He said the police department has more than 50 cars equipped with video cameras “and it’s very challenging to try to make sure that each officer lets us know in enough time to download the information in time so it doesn’t fill up.”
E-ticketing, he said, “will eliminate using the pad and pencil and ticket. This would allow officers to spend less time writing the citations on the side of the road and put them back on the road.”
Armstrong said the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol used e-tickets and direct downloading video, but Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said he was concerned whether the board would have to approve using e-tickets before the program is implemented.
“I know that e-ticket is the law, it’s on the books for the State of Mississippi that allows municipalities and counties to use e-ticket,” he said.
Flaggs said he wanted City Attorney Nancy Thomas to look at the law to determine if the board has to approve e-ticketing.
“I’m all for e-ticket, but you don’t want to go out there an implement e-ticket and then find out you’re getting sued because you did not go through proper channels,” he said.

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About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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