Story plays role in legislative discussions

Several months ago, I visited the Maine State Police’s Computer Crimes Unit.  At the time, I was doing a story about sexting.  But while I was there, the supervisor showed me a bin of files, and told me they are all backlogged child pornography cases.  He called them the “worst of the worst,” explaining they had weeded through some tips and investigations, and found these internet addresses were downloading or sharing exceptionally vile material.

At the time, I filed that bin away in the recesses of my mind.  Then, last month, I contacted the supervisor again and asked whether I could come do a story about the backlog.  He agreed, saying that people need to be aware that there are could be cases of active child abuse in that bin.  But, as he explained, because of his small staff, they weren’t able to execute all the search warrants in a timely fashion.

I went to the office and talked with him about the backlog.  I talked with a member of the legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, and the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.  They all agree that something needs to be done in order to eliminate the backlog, but they’re not confident that will ever happen. 

The commissioner explained that, through a federal recovery act money, the unit is getting two additional detectives and an assistant attorney general.

You can watch the entire story, and read more here.

A day after the story aired in Portland, the Appropriations Committee got involved in the conversation.  It sent a letter to the commissioner asking for a report on the backlog of cases, the severity of the cases, when the backlog may be eliminated, among other things.

In the letter, my story was cited specifically.

“It is important to note that the Channel 6 News reported at length on this issue on the 6:00 PM Tuesday, February 9, 2010 evening news.   An officer in the computer crimes lab reported that the backlog is a very serious threat to the public safety and that resources are insufficient to address this threat.   A Member of the Criminal Justice Committee was interviewed and expressed a strong sentiment to fully fund this program.   In addition, you were interviewed in this episode.   You pointed out that the recent hiring of two new people to work in the computer crimes program would not be sufficient to address the backlogs anytime soon.   In fact you stated that it would take a long time to reduce the backlog.”

The report is due to the committee no later than February 18th.  And I will be there to continue following this story.

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