BROWNSVILLE — While patrolling Palm Boulevard, Cameron County Deputy Constable Joel Ochoa flashed the lights on his cruiser at a white passenger van going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone.
The driver was apologetic. He was taking the passengers, mostly elderly women, to an event and was running late.
Ochoa used one of Cameron County’s new electronic ticket writers to scan the driver’s license and watched the man’s information automatically fill in. After a few moments, Ochoa printed a warning for the driver, got the man’s electronic signature and was back on patrol.
“Next time I see him, it won’t be a warning,” he said.
Ochoa is using one of 15 Brazos electronic ticket writers purchased by the county to speed up traffic stops, reduce errors and streamline the ticketing process. Justices of the peace footed the $78,000 bill using their technology fund.
Constable deputies use a Panasonic device the size of a mobile phone to scan driver’s licenses, VIN numbers or registration stickers, then use drop-down menus to enter information that isn’t automatically populated. The citation or warning is transmitted to a portable printer.
County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. said if feedback on the system is positive, the county could expand it to include sheriff’s deputies. Because Brazos ticket writers are synced to court software, he said, it can quickly notify deputies if people have outstanding warrants or have failed to appear in court.
Elizabeth Chavez, the county’s court function analyst, said the e-ticket writers were deployed Jan. 16 and already have made an impact on efficiency.
Cameron County was one of the few entities that still used paper tickets when Pedro Delgadillo of Precinct 1 organized a demo of the Brazos system in 2015, Chavez said. The system was chosen over other options because it uses the same software as the courts and could easily integrate.
Chavez said about 400 citations and warnings have been issued through the system, and it’s saving time and paper. The time between a ticket being written to it reaching courts has been reduced by 80 percent, she added.
“It allows the courts to reallocate their resources to do other stuff,” she said. “A lot of time was spent entering these citations.”
After deputies upload tickets, they enter an electric queue and are transmitted to justice of the peace courts within 48 hours. Chavez said that process took 10 to 15 days — or longer — with paper tickets.
“A lot of people come in right away wanting to take care of these citations,” she said. “(They) would get turned away because the courts can’t accept payment until the ticket is on file.”
Delgadillo is thankful that county commissioners and Chavez worked to put the Brazos system in place.
He began advocating for the system when he walked into a justice of the peace office and saw an employee entering information from a large pile of citations. Constables, Department of Public Safety troopers, Texas Parks and Wildlife rangers, and other law enforcement all issue tickets in Precinct 1.
He said the county could continue to add features to the software that would make it easier to do things like serve legal documents.
“It’s something that I’m very happy we’ve got it,” he said, particularly with Spring Break on the horizon. “Now that we have it, it’s going to make it easier for JPs to work through the process.”