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Windows Mobile Synchronization Software Recruited By Law Enforcement

Handheld application gives police officers a new tool for writing citations, collecting information

By Frank Yacano, Director of Business Development, SYWARE, Inc.

Windows mobile synchronization software gives police officers a new tool for writing citations Windows mobile synchronization software gives police officers a new tool for writing citations.

If you're a habitual speed demon on the road, this may not be the best news you've heard. Law enforcement officials, on the other hand, are happy as they can now write traffic citations more efficiently - and safely - using a new handheld mobile synchronization application that replaces the traditional pad of tickets. The solution minimizes manual data entry by reading bar code or magnetic stripe data on drivers' licenses, as well as through extensive use of drop-down lists on handheld forms. The handheld units help protect the officer during a traffic stop by eliminating the risk of being pinned in the cruiser. For example, the officer can write a citation while standing behind his passenger door with the violator in his line of sight.

Data captured can also be put to immediate use. Citation records are loaded into a central database the same day, eliminating time-consuming data entry of paper tickets. Police departments can analyze traffic violations, accidents, and criminal activity based on current data, rather than relying on statistics that are often months old.

Called Crossroads Handheld Citation, the application was created by Crossroads Software (, a Brea, California developer of database solutions for motor vehicle and law enforcement records. The application has already been purchased by the Washoe County Sheriff's Department in Nevada, which is testing the system in preparation for full deployment. Pilots also are underway or planned at a number of law enforcement agencies including the Las Vegas Police Department, the Nevada Highway Patrol, and the Nevada Office of Traffic & Safety.

Handheld Citation runs on a Dolphin 7400 mobile device from Hand Held Products. The unit includes an integrated bar code scanner capable of reading the PDF 417 bar code, the nationwide standard for driver's licenses. A black & white digital camera is built into the scanner, allowing a photo to be included as part of the record. A 4-inch O'Neil printer (microFLASH 4TSCR) with integrated magnetic strip reader is worn on the officer's belt, using infrared communication to print from the Dolphin. Both units can withstand being dropped six feet onto concrete over one thousand times.

Flexible, intuitive development tool
The application was developed using Visual CE®, a highly intuitive Windows CE database development tool from SYWARE ( Visual CE offers wide flexibility in data capture methods, forms design, and database management while enabling rapid application development without coding. "Truthfully, while writing this application I didn't feel like a programmer - it was too easy," said Tom LeoGrande, software developer and lead programmer for the project. "Within a few days I was at full speed, and within two weeks I had an application that could be used by many jurisdictions and police departments."

Visual CE accepts input in a variety of ways: from the keypad, handwritten, by bar code scanner, or magnetic strip reader. This flexibility is well-suited for creating a handheld application that can be used by virtually any law enforcement agency. For example, in Nevada, the bar code on a new driver's license contains the driver's name, license number, expiration date, hair color, eye color, height, weight, and other details - all which can be entered into appropriate fields on the handheld. States are also printing bar codes on motor vehicle registrations to quickly capture information such as VIN number, make, model, and registered operator.

SYWARE worked with Crossroads to develop the added benefit of being able to divide a bar code data string into individual elements. For example, the first 15 characters may represent the last name, the next 15 characters are for the first name, and so on. The application inserts this information in the appropriate fields on the handheld, transparently to the user. Some states also include a digitized photo in the bar code, which can also be captured as part of the record.

Minimizes manual input
Drop-down lists allow the officer to quickly select citation codes, such as for speeding (and by how much), as well as safety defects, no seatbelt, and other violations. The application then calculates the citation fee, court fee, and state fee associated with each violation, and the total owed. Additional screens are used to pick the court name and date in the event that the driver wants to contest the citation. Each court is in session for certain days and hours, and requires specific lead times to schedule a hearing. For example, if the violation occurred in Washoe County, the application will display an open day four weeks in advance, which is the advance notice required in that jurisdiction. The application calculates this information automatically, so the officer doesn't have to consult his calendar.

Windows Mobile Synchronization: Driver's License Data

After generating the citation, the officer instructs the driver to sign in a box on the screen using the handheld pen. (Signatures are captured electronically as part of the citation record.) The officer then signs in a separate box, taps a button on the screen to print the ticket on the printer attached to his belt, tears off the ticket, and hands it to the individual.

Windows Mobile Synchronization: Signature Box

The remaining forms are used to enter notes that can be submitted as evidence in the event that the ticket is contested. Comments can be entered using the keypad or written across the screen in longhand. Drop-down lists allow the officer to quickly enter details such as weather conditions and traffic signals (i.e., signs or signals, out or working properly).

Windows Mobile Synchronization: Citation Notes

Report CE® for printing
Crossroads used SYWARE's Report CE software to create the printed output. Report CE uses the same easy drag & drop customization featured by Visual CE to enable rapid design of reports and printed forms. "An intern created the printed citation in about four hours without having seen the program before. Report CE simplified designing the layout, choosing fonts and other graphic elements, and associating database records with the printed output. The output is a complete traffic citation that looks almost identical to a traditional hardcopy traffic ticket," LeoGrande adds.

Current data for analysis
Crossroads Handheld Citation integrates with the Crossroads Software Collision Database currently used by over 140 jurisdictions in California, as well as in New Jersey, Florida, and other states. The Collision Database allows departments to analyze traffic and law enforcement statistics in a variety of ways while using GIS mapping to compare citation records with accident locations. For example, a Sergeant may want to see the top ten intersections for tickets issued during the current year. A GIs map pops up with dots showing the locations, with larger dots representing areas with a higher number of citations.

At the end of the shift, the officers synchronize their handhelds with the Collision Database, where it is immediately available for analysis. When the officer taps the Synchronization icon, a pop-up window displays two options. The officer can select One-Way Sync to upload the day's citations and associated notes from the handheld to the desktop. Full Sync uploads the handheld records to the desktop, and also downloads any new street names, vehicle codes, officer names, ID codes, and other drop-down list values to the handheld.

In addition to saving the time and cost of keying data, the ability to perform an analysis using current information can be vitally important for a police department or jurisdiction. Data can be sliced and diced as desired: by date, location, officer, make and year of vehicle, or any other criteria. Locations where accidents are known to occur can be matched to the number of citations to determine if traffic enforcement is to helping reduce crashes. Reports can also be used to detect potential problems in the early stages, such as whether an officer has a tendency to stop certain types of individuals more than others. The system can also protect officers from false accusations by generating reports that show the facts. The officer, the department, and the public are all better served.

Easy to modify for any jurisdiction
The drag & drop functionality of Visual CE means that Crossroads Handheld Citation is easily tailored to fit the needs of any law enforcement jurisdiction - large and small police departments, departments of fish & game, and other agencies. While the underlying program remains the same, the jurisdiction name, graphics, types of information requested, and content of drop down lists can vary. All drop down lists can be defined and updated, including officer names, eye colors, hair colors, race codes, and street names.

How easy is it? LeoGrande cites one example where he was able to modify the application while sitting in the client's office. "It took no more than 15 minutes to change the look and feel of nine forms."

The application can also be readily adapted to meet a variety of law enforcement needs in addition to traffic citations. For example, Washoe County will be employing a modified version of the application to generate FI (field information) cards used when an officer stops an individual for questioning. This is one area where the built-in digital camera where be especially useful, allowing a photograph of the subject to accompany the text record. In addition to the added efficiency for the officer in the street, the ability to make field data available for analysis the same day it is collected makes the FI cards a much more valuable law enforcement tool.

Speed to Market for Windows CE
"I recommend Visual CE to anyone who wants to develop a Windows CE program for databasing," adds LeoGrande. "It's one of the best development tools out there - and you don't need a computer science degree or years of programming experience. If you have a basic aptitude for computers, you can put together a very useful application."

Frank Yacano is Director of Business Development for SYWARE, Inc., a developer of database and wireless productivity tools for Windows CE and Pocket PC handhelds.

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