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With the swipe of a driver's license mag stripe across a handheld device, local cops will be streamlining the process of issuing traffic citations.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department announced that through a collaborative effort with the Stanislaus County Superior Court, and the cities of Ceres, Hughson, Waterford, Oakdale, Riverbank, Modesto, Patterson, Waterford, Newman and the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department were awarded a grant for handheld citation writers and software from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The total amount for the grant was $361,800 and will cover the cost of 48 hand held units including software and charging stations for the nine police agencies and the sheriff's office.

When staffing is reduced as with Ceres PD, it is common for an agency to consider increasing their efficiency so that fewer people can maintain the same level of service. In many cases, implementation of new technologies can help increase efficiency. These technologies often come with a high initial price but low on-going costs.
Currently, citations are hand written by an officer that produce copies on NCR paper. For record keeping purposes, the cites are manually entered into the department's records management system taking up time by the person doing the data entry. One copy of the citation is also filed with the court. Any errors discovered had to be manually amended with a Notice of Correction mailed to the violator and a copy sent to the court.

Called AutoCITE, the hand-held ticketing unit from Irvine-based Enforcement Technology Inc., saves time in the issuance process, data entry, amendments, and sending citation information to the court.

The AutoCITE unit looks like a portable credit card reader. But instead of printing out receipts at the top end, the battery-charged machine spits out citations.
To issue a ticket, officers swipe the violator's driver's license through a mag-stripe reader and use a key pad to enter the vehicle information, location and violation into the unit. The device contains a memory chip that can store up to 1,000 citations.

At the end of a shift, officers plug the unit onto a computer that electronically transfers the data to the court and it recharges at the same time. No sorting or filing is needed.

The grant did not include the cost of the software needed for the AutoCITE to interface with in-house records managements system and with current budget restraints, many departments do not know how long it would be until the department would have the funds on an effort to eliminate the need for department personnel to manually enter citation information.