GREECE — Illegible handwritten traffic tickets in Greece will be a thing of the past when the Police Department gets an electronic ticketing system in January.
Although a first here in Monroe County, computer-generated and printed traffic tickets have made their way into other municipalities of the state and around the country.
Police say the system holds many positives for them: Tickets will no longer be dismissed in court because of illegible handwriting; the time it takes to issue a ticket will be reduced by more than 60 percent, and the ticket information will be directly transferred to police, court and state Department of Motor Vehicles databases.
The move is a double-edged sword for drivers. Drivers won’t have to spend as much time waiting during a traffic stop, but officers will have more time to be on the road and issue more tickets.
Either way, it is a technological advance in law enforcement that one day will likely become commonplace, according to various law enforcement officials. The New York State Police department is slowly rolling out a system that will eventually be accessible to every county in the next couple of years.
“ There is a lot of new technology evolving in all aspects of law enforcement,” said Tom Voelkl, Brighton police chief and chairman of the Monroe County Law Enforcement Council. “ (Electronic ticketing) is something everyone will be interested in.”
The Greece Police Department is buying the computer system for 23 patrol cars, and separate portable equipment for two parking monitors and motorcycle patrols, at a cost of $105,000. The equipment is from a private company called Advanced Public Safety, based in Boca Raton, Fla.
The patrol cars will have laptops and printers installed, paid for through a $66,000 grant.
Greece will also outfit two parking monitors with handheld computers and devices that will scan registration stickers on cars. A printer the size of a desk calendar will be on the monitor’s belt and will print out the ticket.
Two portable units will also be available for motorcycle patrols in Greece.
Greece Police Chief Merritt Rahn said a ticket that would normally take 15 to 20 minutes to write will now take about five minutes to process.
“ It’s a tremendous timesaver first and foremost,” said Glens Falls Police Chief Richard P. Carey, who started an electronic ticketing system with State Police and the Warren County Sheriff’s Department in 2001.
But another benefit is the time it saves to put the ticket data into police and court databases.
In Greece, information from handwritten tickets is now typed manually into the Police Department’s database. Then, the tickets are sent to the Greece Town Court, where the information is retyped into the court computer system.
Linda Agostinis, an administrative assistant in the Greece Police Department who is helping order the system, said it can run independently of the database that Monroe County law enforcement uses to exchange information about drivers.
However, it can still cooperate with that system to access and input information. Rahn said the new system could save 50 to 60 hours a week of staff time and $80,000 a year in clerical costs.
Kathryn Firkins, Greece’s director of constituent services, said that no jobs would be lost. Clerical staffers will either be assigned to different tasks, or positions will be lost through attrition.
Town officials couldn’t speculate how many more tickets officers might write because of the speedier system. The Police Department generates 5,000 to 6,000 tickets a year and more than $400,000 in revenue. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 this year, the town has handed out $450,139 in ticket fines.
“ It sounds like it would be a good thing,” said Gates resident Terrance Buckley, who was visiting Greece’s Department of Motor Vehicles office Monday. “ It’ll speed things up, but it depends on how accurate it’s going to be,” Buckley said, adding jokingly, “ I hope I never have to use it.”
The State Police department already runs electronic ticketing systems in Onondaga, Sullivan and Warren counties.
That system, called TraCS (Traffic and Criminal Software), was a federally funded project using a system developed by Iowa law enforcement. That system cuts ticket-writing time from 8 to 10 minutes per ticket to two to three minutes, said State Police spokesman Lt. Glenn Miner.
It will only be a couple of years before troopers have the ability to use the system in every county, Miner said.
“ It’ll be changing the way police do business,” he said.