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New system lets San Jose cops issue citations in a flash
By Mark Gomez

An electronic ticketing device unveiled by San Jose police today will allow officers to issue and record citations in minutes, rather than the hours taken taken under the current hand-written system.

"Welcome to the 21st century," San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis said at a news conference in front of police headquarters. "We are the capital of Silicon Valley and have not been able to take advantage of the technology in our own backyard. . . . We have to leverage the technology to make us more effective."

San Jose is the first Bay Area city to implement the electronic ticketing device, a handheld system very much like a PDA that allows officers to swipe a driver's license, print out the ticket and transmit the information into a database using wireless technology. The system, provided by 3i Infotech, was funded by a $782,000 grant and took about one year to develop.

There are between 45 to 50 devices in use now, Davis said, with plans for 125 more to be implemented in October.

When making a traffic stop, officers will scan the magnetic strip on the back of a California driver's license and quickly issue a citation. Also, officers will carry a small device that allows them to take fingerprints in the field.

Previously, officers wrote citations on a three-copy paper and turned them into the records unit, where the data was re-entered by a clerk. Another paper copy was sent to the courts, where a clerk again entered the information into a database.

Davis called the old process "very, very labor intensive and a waste of our staff time."

Catherine Gallagher, presiding judge of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, said the county handles about 250,000 citations a year, and the new paperless system will allow for "less error and more efficiency in the entire system." Gallagher added that she hopes lines at traffic court will become shorter as a result of the new process.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said the new system will "save tremendous amounts of time elsewhere in the system."

The electronic ticketing system will also allow detectives working cases to obtain critical information "in real time" and not have to sort through paper copies in the record room, Davis said.

The chief hopes that other Bay Area cities will follow San Jose's lead and adapt the electronic ticketing device, which would allow Bay Area law enforcement agencies to develop a widespread database.

"Suspects don't have borders," Davis said.
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