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.
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 (www.crossroadssoftware.com), 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
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
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.
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).
Report CE® for printing
Current data for analysis
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
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
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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