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Nearly 3 years later, e-ticketing a work in progress for Gwinnett PD

In this 2013 file photo, Gwinnett County Police Chief Charles Walters speaks during a press conference.

In this 2013 file photo, Gwinnett County Police Chief Charles Walters speaks during a press conference.

LAWRENCEVILLE — In the summer of 2011, Gwinnett County police issued a press release.

The department trumpeted the imminent arrival of e-ticketing, a system that would enable officers to issue, print and upload traffic citations using handheld devices. Time and money would be saved, particularly through driver’s license information being automatically transferred to citations.

“This will allow our officers to operate more efficiently,” Chief Charlie Walters said at the time, “giving them more availability and less time doing paperwork.”

Two-and-a-half years later, one of metro Atlanta’s largest police departments is still writing tickets by hand. Issues of various proportions have ensured as much.

“We’re working on a communication problem that was discovered in the last round of testing,” Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said last week, clarifying that the issue involved getting different pieces of hardware to “talk” to each other.

Nobody expected the e-ticketing implementation to be an overnight process, even after the county’s board of commissioners approved the improvements in July 2011. It was a year before the commission approved the initial $700,000 toward purchasing the appropriate technology and called it a step toward making the program a reality by the end of 2012.

The total equipment price tag of about $6.3 million was to be paid for by 2009 sales tax funds. Maintenance and training — not eligible to be covered by those tax funds — were slotted to be covered by a $10 technology fee tacked onto tickets for the first few years of the program.

The latter didn’t get the necessary approval from Gwinnett’s local legislative delegation in 2012 or 2013, and, according to legislative liaison Susan Lee, the county opted not to pursue it during the current legislative session after a similar, statewide bill was proposed. As of Monday, the bill had passed through the House and the initial Senate committee it was assigned to.

Then there’s the actual implementation.

Over the last year-plus, the e-ticketing systems have been installed and tested on the police department’s nine-vehicle motorcycles unit, which writes the most traffic citations and also provides rigorous physical testing.

Smith said that the department and Louisiana-based vendor ThinkStream have “fixed several other problems since this project is so large and contains so many parts and pieces.” The process, he said, has also included: creating interfaces with court and police records management systems; developing a “deployment and device management strategy” for more than 800 devices; and cleaning up citation statute lists.

“We have had numerous challenges with the process,” Smith said in an email, “the most significant being working to comply with the rules that (the) Georgia Department of Driver Services has in place for what the Uniform Traffic Citation has to contain and how it must look.”

The most recent solution was scheduled to be “delivered” Tuesday and, if it’s successful, officials will set up “another testing session” with the motorcycle unit, Smith said. If that is successful as well, the department would “move toward implementation” — a process that would still entail installing much of the hardware in several hundred squad cars.

Even if the right solution is nigh, the undertaking that began nearly three years ago is still a long way off.

“We are excited about the efficiencies that we expect to see when our folks are able to go live with the e-ticketing system, so it is hard to be patient with the implementation,” Gwinentt County Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. “However, I know that we have to be sure that everything is working well before we launch the system for official use.”