State troopers try out electronic ticketing

The Baltimore Sun

An electronic ticketing system that will allow state troopers to issue and track traffic citations is being tested in Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties and is scheduled to expand within a month to barracks throughout Maryland, state police officials said yesterday.

Authorities said that by next spring, the system could include other agencies, such as the Carroll County Sheriff's Office and municipal police departments.

"If all goes well, Carroll County will probably be the first county to be fully outfitted with the system," Cpl. Doug Baralo of the state police information and technology bureau told the county commissioners yesterday.

The General Assembly approved a bill last session granting police officers permission to issue electronic tickets by scanning bar codes on drivers' licenses and, eventually, on registration cards.

The system, which then prints out traffic citations from a computer, can collect multiple charges under one document and eliminates the need for a violator's signature, Baralo said.

Twenty state troopers from barracks in Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties have been using the electronic ticket system since late July. They are issuing only warnings until the law allowing the electronic citations goes into effect Monday.

In November, another 50 troopers around the state will start using the new equipment, Baralo said.

Baralo said it costs about $1,100 to outfit each police car with the equipment, provided the vehicle already has a computer. State police said about 1,000 vehicles could eventually use the system.

The District Court of Maryland originally requested the electronic system because its employees have been swamped hand-processing about 1.5 million paper traffic citations per year, Baralo said.

With the new system, police will be able to access an electronic database listing all outstanding arrest warrants and traffic charges filed against a stopped driver. If a person had been stopped and warned for speeding numerous times, the police officer could then ticket the driver, Baralo said.

State police won't be able to scan information from Michigan, California or Texas driver's licenses because they still use magnetic stripes instead of bar codes, Baralo said. The bar codes on Georgia drivers' licenses are encrypted, so that data can't be accessed either, he said.

Maryland's vehicle-registration cards don't have bar codes, but the Motor Vehicle Administration will start using them next year, Baralo said.

To implement the paperless ticketing system at municipal police agencies and sheriff's departments, the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention is offering a total of $1 million in grants. Applications for the grant are due by Nov. 6, police said.

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