It’s been a slippery, seven-month slope since Kansas City went paperless…
You know, with e-tickets. so unless your an aging biker who likes to park illegally in front of LatteLand on the Plaza, chances are, you’re gonna get one of these one of these days – maybe just for parking somewhere in KC, so listen up.
Or you may end up like Stanford & Sons‘ Craig Glazer did three weeks back.
E-tickets are not your grandfather’s friendly, yellow, or beige, carbon copy tickets. Not even close.
They’re two-feet-long and four and a half inches wide to begin with.
Which is a lot to love, especially given what’s missing on them, namely the fine amount and where to mail it in. Suffice it to say, Glazer was verklempt, perplexed and confused.
He called the phone number on the ticket and landed in Kansas City’s 3-1-1 Action Center which proceeded to spit out prereorded, confusing water bill options before offering a municipal court, city services or a live body option.
Glazer rolled the dice on human life form and soon found himself trapped in Hold Line Heck. Frustrated he gave the ticket to his office manager to pay before he left town, but she too missed the online pay option.
Remember, these tickets are two feet long and printed on both sides
"I didn’t have time to wait," Glazer says. "So I assume they’ll mail me something."
Three weeks later – after he’d lost the ticket he tried to mail before he left – Glazer got a mailing advising him it was $43.50 and that he could pay by mail, over the phone or online.
Therein lies a portion of the problem.
There are lots of people in KC’s e-ticket conga line who don’t know all the dance steps yet.
It took me several days and multiple calls and emails to Kansas City Police, the 3-1-1 Action Center, the 16th Judicial Circuit Court and probably a half dozen more places I won’t bore you with to get even close to unraveling the mystery of e-tickets. And I still don’t have it all straight.
But I’m close enough to spill what I do have and let the e-chips fall where they may.
One police spokeswoman told me early on she didn’t know the amount of the fines were being left off of the e-tickets and where to send them in. She suggested maybe Glazer’s ticket had been issued by Plaza Security or something.
Nope, not us, Plaza Security told me – they don’t write tickets. Plaza Security suggested I try Lanier Parking who’s in charge of the Plaza’s private parking areas and field a fleet of cute little golf cart-like runnabouts. Not us, Lanier said.
Ditto added Highwoods honcho Brad Drees. "We don’t write tickets," he said.
Let alone e-tickets.
"I run the Plaza," Drees said. "I don’t know anything about that."
Here’s the deal, e-tickets save the court and Kansas City a ton of dough over the old paper tickets. They allow the cops to make a bust and get back to fighting crime faster. And meter maids and parking police to more quickly capture illegally-parked cars. So in a perfect world, there are fewer mixups and mistakes.
Just don’t tell that to the 3-1-1 Action Center gang.
"They’re still working out the bugs, because there’s still some issues…" 3-1-1 call taker Rodney told me. "They’re working out the kinks. The police have to do their thing and then the court processes it."
"There’s no place on the e-ticket that tells you how much is owed," added 3-1-1 staffer Marcia, confirming that there was confusion from a lot of callers who couldn’t find the ticket price and where to mail it in. "But that’s not up to me. That was not my decision," she added.
Enter 3-1-1 Action Center supervisor Tracy Rue…
Because of operator error, the city took the dollar fine amounts off of the tickets, Rue said.
"Because the code (the police) wrote was (sometimes) wrong and we billed the wrong amount and we had to honor their mistakes – we have to honor what we wrote," Rue says. "So now the municipality has to take a hit, so we took (the fine amounts) off of there."
Got all that? Good.
Because according 16th Circuit Court e-ticket Godfather Kevin Dey, little of the above is true.
"I’m sure there are many stories out there," Dey says. "The truth of the matter is everybody writing tickets for Kansas City has moved on to an e-ticket process and the old paper ticket is an unacceptable document to the court."
Lots of people besides police could write paper tickets before e-tickets came along, Dey says.
"For example, we have animal control folks and the housing code inspectors," he explains. "And there are a group of ticket writers that work for the city in the Parking Services Division, and they write parking tickets for the downtown area and they are not Kansas City police either and if UMKC wanted to purchase the e-ticket equipment they could write tickets."
See, KC Police had earlier told me non-police personnel couldn’t get e-ticket devices because there’s too much sensitive information privy to police-only on them. That only cops and "autherized law enforcement agencies" are allowed to view that information.
Au contraire, Dey says.
There are e-ticket devices that give only the basic information needed for the wrist slapping and leave out the confidential stuff only cops can see.
For example, Glazer – I think they have the abridged version of King of Sting on the police e-ticket devices.
In fact, a number of local organizations that include UMKC, the Veteran’s Administration Hospital and area Metropolitan Community Colleges had been writing paper tickets up until last August 28th. No mas.
"They can’t write them anymore," Dey says.
And none of them have anted up yet for an e-ticket machine.
"Not currently, no," Dey says. "But if they wish to purchase them, they could. It’s a little handheld device called a CN50."
Which reportedly sells for around $1,200 a copy.
As for the slightly bumpy shakedown cruise the 3-1-1 gang refers to, "You know, it’s taken a while to get e-ticketing off the ground," Dey says. "But let me tell you, Hearne; there is nothing about that (3-1-1) story that is even close to real.
"First of all, we don’t put the dollar amount on the face of the ticket anymore because every single ticket gets an assigned court date. What happens sometimes is the e-ticket gets kicked out of the e-ticket system and they have to be manually corrected. So that happens every so often."
And don’t forget kiddies, you can always pay online. "That’s on the back of the ticket," Dey says.
In the interest in sticking up for the coppers who joked with me about the new e-tickets being two-feet long, I need to do an ever-so-slight bust on Mr. Dey.
Dey gave me the exact measurements of the e-ticket as 101/2 inches long and 41/2 wide, compared to paper tickets which were 81/2 inches long and 31/4 wide. That is until 20 minutes later as we were about to hang up and one of his staffers printed out an actual e-ticket and brought it in for Dey to stoke on.
They are two-feet long, he marveled!
As for people like Glazer, and maybe even older folks getting confused by the new e-tix, "I don’t know what to say about that," Dey quips. "It’s like when you send out a memo and nobody reads it, I guess. But there’s a lot of information on those tickets – more than on the paper tickets.They also reduce the chance of errors, because there’s no one interpreting the officer’s handwriting."
Seven no ones, to be exact.
Courtesy of e-tickets, the Data Interpretation Department went away, Dey says. "Roughly seven of those people were deployed. There’s no doubt one of the advantages of e-tickets is a budgeting and fiscal advantage."
Dey also takes exception to 3-1-1’s assertion that coding mistakes were costing the court money.
The shakedown voyage is over, he adds.
"We are 71/2 months into e-ticketing and it’s running quite smoothly right now," he says. "It’s just a matter of people getting accustomed to it. You know, if people get an e-ticket on their windshield and they want to know the price of it, all they have to do is go on the Internet, pull it up right there and they can pay for it on their smartphone. The positive thing is the sytem’s working and it’s working beautifully."
The bottom line being…
"When you look at the volume of tickets we’re writing every year, it’s pretty breathtaking," Dey says. "It’s 350,000 tickets a year, and if you’ve gotten one, thank-you for shopping Municpal Court."