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Wisconsin State Patrol goes high-tech with e-tickets

People have come to take for granted the increasing computerization of society. For example, e-tickets for airline flights are now commonplace. But how about e-tickets for speeding or running a stop sign?

Since 1996, Wisconsin State Patrol vehicles have been progressively fitted with more advanced computer systems, utilizing laptop computers connected over a radio-based IP solution. Instead of writing out tickets and filing them by hand later on, officers can file them by computer and print out a receipt for the motorist. This represents a tremendous timesaver for troopers who issue roughly one million tickets each year.

Starting last year, the State Patrol began installing a new system that incorporates a mobile GPS system, enhancing the Patrol’s ability to coordinate its officers. The system should be fully installed across the entire fleet of 450 cars by the end of the year.

The systems do more than just expedite ticket writing; they are an aid to police work as a whole. By keeping police cars networked, the state police server is able to pull GPS data from all cars and map out where each trooper is every two and one-half minutes using in-house automatic vehicle location software.

“We utilize it for two things,” said John Gifford, IT coordinator for the State Patrol. “One is officer safety. We know where the location of the vehicle is, so if something should happen to the officer, we have starting point to find them. The second big advantage is what we refer to as incident management.”
Whereas officers would formerly have had to coordinate maneuvers by sounding out their locations in terms of streets or landmarks—with all the attendant errors of voice communication and confusion—a computer model is able to quickly chart where each officer is, without human error. The communications centers thus have a live picture of where everyone is, allowing them more time to perform actual police work.

As an example, Gifford mentioned a case several months ago in which multiple cars were needed to close off a section of highway to manage an accident. One officer accidentally went to the wrong spot, but the mistake was easily corrected by simply looking at the map and seeing where everybody was.

Additionally, since medical helicopters operate off of GPS coordinate already, the systems save a step in summoning for help—police no longer have to relay their current location in conventional terms and then have it translated into GPS.

While the latest wave of hardware improvements are almost done for now, further development will continue. To complement the GPS systems, the Patrol is also working on a program to allow police officers live access in their own cars to the same picture that is monitored at he command center.

“It’s an exciting time because of all the technology that’s coming along,” Gifford said. “Trying to just keep up with it can be a real challenge, because things do change rapidly.”

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