BY the middle of next month the police should be equipped with hand-held devices that will link them to the traffic ticketing database, giving them up-to-date information on motorists with outstanding tickets and warrants.
Senior Superintendent of Police Radcliffe Lewis told journalists of the development at yesterday's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange as he revealed that, despite recent steps to encourage offenders to pay up traffic fines, some $2 billion in penalties are still outstanding.
Next month's introduction of the devices will be the first phase of the roll-out, which is expected to see 300 machines being given to police officers islandwide.
"As we speak, training is in progress for the use of the devices. So by mid-November the first 60 should be rolled out.," Lewis said. "We already have these devices, and we have had them for some time now."
Lewis said the number of devices will be increased over time to effectively cover the entire island.
The devices will also be linked to the system at the Transport Authority.
"These devices will be able to print tickets on spot from the system," Karey Rowe, general manager, finance and planning at the Transport Authority said. "So the problems we are currently having will be a thing of the past."
The devices, when linked, will be able to access the driver's history in terms of number of tickets and warrants issued and if these have been paid.
The devices are expected to minimise the handwriting of tickets, reduce data-entry errors, while also making it easier for the police to detect repeat offenders and serve as a deterrent to motorists committing traffic breaches.
Up to January this year, the Government netted $340 million from the six-month-long traffic ticket amnesty, which took effect from July 1 last year. That pardon freed motorists from additional fees and penalties on unpaid tickets issued prior to September 21, 2010, once they were paid in full over the period.
While he was unable to outline the next move in getting culprits to pay up, Lewis said plans are afoot to move towards this. However, a new Act is being reviewed which could force motorists to make payments.
Deputy Superintendent Gary McKenzie, who was also a guest at the Monday Exchange, said, under the new Act, persons with outstanding tickets would be prevented from renewing their driver's licence.
"One of the things that could prevent your driver's licence being renewed, or your vehicle licence being renewed, is if you have outstanding traffic tickets. So that is one of the things that will hopefully encourage persons to pay their tickets," McKenzie said.
Under the new Road Traffic Act, there will be a stipulation that also prevents persons doing certain types of business with the Government.
The new Act is expected to come on steam by the end of the fiscal year.
McKenzie said, while persons may feel that the police are not proactive, as there are still motorists driving with 150 and 200 outstanding tickets, the cops are unable to make arrests until warrants have in fact been served.
"Remember now that the points that these persons may have are really potential demerit points. Because unless the person has either paid their fines or the matter has been adjudicated via the court, those points are not yet assigned," he explained. "And the police can only arrest if a warrant was issued for their arrest. So you will find people out there with outstanding tickets and the police give advice for them to have it cleared up. They are told to come to traffic headquarters and we assist them by taking some of them to court. If persons have warrants, we take them in and bring them before the courts and those matters are dealt with," DSP McKenzie said.
Clive McDonald, chief inspector at the Transport Authority, said issuing of substitute licences could also be affected by the new Act.
"We currently issue between 900 and 1,000 substitute driver's licences each month. And that's for persons who have lost their driver's licence and want it replaced, and sometimes when you check on the traffic ticketing system people have up to 39 points (against their licence); and because of the law, we still have to issue the substitute driver's licence. So we want to make it mandatory that all tickets be paid up before a replacement driver's licence can be issued," he said.