McAllen Police Department
Reduces Dismissed Tickets by Half
E-Citation Produces More Legible Tickets, Increases Revenue
The McAllen Police Department (MPD) serves the McAllen, Texas, metro area, with a population of about 130,000. Just five miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and the Mexican city of Reynosa (with a population of 500,000), the city's size can grow by 200,000 to 300,000 commuters each day. The MPD employs 272 sworn officers and approximately 380 total employees.
Like many police departments, MPD had long issued hand-written paper tickets to offenders. The manual process left room for errors in two places:
- Point of issuance—Handwritten ticket information could be incorrect or illegible.
- Municipal court—Administrators occasionally entered dates, locations, license numbers, or license plates incorrectly.
"If we have incorrect information, then the tickets are thrown out. We were losing revenue," said Lt. Robert Eason of MPD.
Across 20,000 citations per year, about 10 percent had to be invalidated due to errors of some sort. Beyond lost revenue, the department struggled with other ramifications of a paper-based approach. Citations were not in the court systems for two to three days, and paper copies were quickly filling a 15' x 25' storage room.
When exploring e-citation solutions, MPD connected with Brazos Technology, a College Station, Texas-based company that provides mobile applications for law enforcement and businesses.
The department chose Brazos Technology's electronic citation solution, which includes Brazos software, Motorola® MC75 handheld devices, and Zebra Technologies printers, all connected together wirelessly.
MPD road-tested a couple of different mobile printers, beginning with a pilot with its motorcycle officers. One printer, which uses thermal paper, didn't stand up to the hot and humid Texas border conditions. After baking a while on hot cars, the paper turned brown and became unreadable.
"When we tested Zebra® printers, the paper and print quality were much higher, and we didn't have any problems reading tickets even when they've been sitting in the sun," Eason said.
Since then, the department has expanded e-citation to its vehicle officers. With the software, MPD decides which fields and what standing information to print on each ticket, such as how to pay or contest the citation. In MPD's case, citation instructions print in both English and Spanish for the multi-ethnic population of the area.
When officers encounter unlicensed drivers, they also have the option of capturing and sending a photo of the individual as a means of identification in the absence of proof of name, date of birth, or address.
All of the data that the officers enter for each citation on handheld devices is automatically transmitted back to the court's records system, thereby eliminating duplicate data entry. Officers also easily print the citations on the Zebra mobile printer to hand the offender.
"We can dedicate more of the ticket to the information that offenders need, such as court hours," Eason said.
Additionally, the handheld devices automatically query the offender's name against McAllen's active local warrant list and inform the officer immediately if the offender is wanted. At once, this increases officer safety and the possibility of apprehension, thereby clearing more outstanding warrants.
A couple of data entry people were shifted to other areas. Now they are working on revenue collection versus data entry. For the taxpayers of McAllen, it's a good news story.
"Since I implemented the new system, we've seen a ton of benefits," comments McMahon. "One distributor,World Fuels, has praised the system, saying it has significantly improved the company's billing process because the Zebra printouts are much clearer and there is never an error in reporting. Plus it takes World Fuels about 16 seconds to order its gas online, which has saved them approximately 42 man hours per month on one entry."
Digital Fuel Solutions also does forecasting for McMahon's customers.With record gas prices earlier this year, it was a huge help to better forecast how much gas to sell. McMahon notes, "This is inventory at its best."
In addition, McMahon's payroll and customer billing is done 93 percent faster. "It used to take me close to two days to complete payroll. Now, it's taking me around 12 minutes. With 100 percent accuracy," said McMahon.
"The system also has brought us significant safety benefits. For example, if a truck has a flat tire or something is wrong, we're able to eliminate it from the route with the push of a button. This prevents other drivers from accidentally using the truck," said McMahon.
The new delivery system quickly yielded significant business benefits and cost savings for McMahon Cartage. However, the company gained the most impressive cost efficiencies via a reduction in shifts. With the new system, McMahon Cartage was able to eliminate a whole shift, resulting in savings of $3,500 per week and a 55 percent reduction in the number of dispatchers. With its mobile delivery system, the company is operating more leanly and efficiently than ever.