STORY INITIATES LEGISLATORS’ QUESTIONS FEBRUARY, 2010
AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The Appropriations Committee with the Maine state legislature is asking the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety for a report on how the backlog on child pornography cases will be eliminated.
Commissioner Anne Jordan has proposed eliminating the director of the crime lab, which oversees the computer crimes unit. The commissioner said that would save $150,000 a year. But in a letter the committee sent the commissioner, the legislators write that “reducing the number of personnel who operate the computer crimes laboratory as a means of saving money is not a prudent or reasonable decision.”
“I’m not so much concerned again on the money piece,” said Senator Bill Diamond (D-Windham), the senate chair of the committee. “Money is a high priority and this is a high priority position, as I think it would be. What’s more important than stopping kids from being assaulted and sexually abused? Than I think we need to find the money for that.”
This week NEWS CENTER reported that there are 250 files in the unit’s backlog. It was after the story aired, that the Appropriations Committee sent the letter. It goes on to outline just what the committee wants in a report. The total number of cases involved in the backlog; a breakdown of the number of cases by degree of seriousness of the crimes; the measures you intend to implement to reduce the backlog; how you intend to implement these measures; the time frame in which the backlog will be eliminated; and the impact on the time frame if no additional resources or measures are taken.
Commissioner Jordan has until February 18 to report back to the committee.
Colonel Patrick Fleming of State Police said the plan is to put another state trooper in charge of the crime lab. That way, Fleming explained, it would be a sworn officer with investigative experience. Lt. William Harwood, who currently works with the state police special projects division, is the trooper tapped for that position. Fleming said Harwood currently manages grants, and applies for new ones; works on agency’s strategic plan; and inspects the troops.
“(Lt. Harwood) would work closely with Sgt. Lang at the Computer Crimes Unit to figure out where they need to go, and what cases have priority.” said Fleming. Sgt. Lang is the current supervisor at the Computer Crimes Unit.
Fleming said the introduction of the new staff member would not necessarily make the process of catching up on the backlog faster, but they would be better armed to prioritize cases.
“This is a serious problem,” he said.
A copy of the letter from the Appropriations Committee to Commissioner Jordan:
February 10, 2010
Anne Jordan, Commissioner
Department of Public Safety
104 State House Station
45 Commerce Drive
Augusta, Maine 04333-0104
Dear Commissioner Jordan,
The General Fund Budget proposal to eliminate the current director of the computer crime lab presents a most serious challenge to the safety of Maine citizens. The concern of many legislators focuses on the substantial backlogs of criminal investigations that currently exist that allows predators to continue to live and work in Maine undetected by most citizens. These predators pose a serious threat to the public safety. Reducing the number of personnel who operate the computer crimes laboratory as a means of saving money is not a prudent or reasonable decision. The issue is public safety, which should be the highest priority of the Department of Public Safety.
Since you have proposed reducing funding for the computer crimes program, we are requesting you to provide the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety with assurances that the backlog in computer crime investigations will be eliminated in a timely manner. We are requesting you to develop a plan as soon as possible that will eliminate the backlogs in the computer crimes laboratory, and provide this report to the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs no later than February 18, 2010.
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.
In the report, we would like the following information:
The total number of cases involved in the backlog,
A breakdown of the number of cases by degree of seriousness of the crimes,
The measures you intend to implement to reduce the backlog,
How you intend to implement these measures,
The time frame in which the backlog will be eliminated, and
The impact on the time frame if no additional resources or measures are taken.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter. We look forward to your response.
Sen. Bill Diamond, Senate Chair, Appropriations Committee
Rep. Emily Cain, House Chair, Appropriations Committee
Sen. Richard Rosen, Senate Lead, Appropriations Committee
Rep. Sawin Millett, House Lead, Appropriations Committee
CC: Senator Stan Gerzofsky, Senate Chair, Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee
Rep. Anne Haskell, House Chair, Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee
GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES TURN TO SOCIAL MEDIA FEBRUARY, 2010
(NEWS CENTER) — Four years ago, Facebook was mostly for college students, YouTube was amateur video, and barely anyone had heard of Twitter. Now social media is everywhere, and Maine’s gubernatorial candidates are using it to get their campaign messages out.
“Social media is good because it’s a two-way street,” explained Les Otten, one of the several republicans running for the Blaine House. “In social media, you can get immediate comments to your comments. And you can respond to them. I think it’s a place where people can examine the candidate.”
Otten is one of the few in the race of more than 20 who has purchased traditional advertisements. He says that social media is an obvious way to get to voters. His opponents agree, saying because mainstream media isn’t following the race much now, they need to turn to alternate forms of media.
“I love to engage the voters directly,” said republican Bruce Poliquin. “I’ve spent as much time as I can engaging them through those social networking platforms. I answer questions, I talk about policy issues, we blog twice a week, we use Twitter to get our events out there. And recruit volunteers and encourage people to show up at events.”
What’s happening here is not unique to Maine. During the presidential campaign last fall, then-candidate-Obama leaned heavily on social media — sending out messages to millions of people via Twitter and YouTube.
The candidates agree, while it’s nice to have new, free tools available to them, they still need to engage voters.
“The interesting thing about it, is people need to come to us as well as us going to them, so it’s not just being blasted at,” said democrat Rosa Scarcelli. “It’s kind of like going up to the door, knocking on it, and opening up the door and let you in.”
While these politicians are all trying to shake as many hands and talk with as many people as possible in real life, they’re turning to their social media sites to answer a lot of questions.
“One person asks me on Facebook or Twitter, there’s probably a hundred more, or a thousand more, in Maine that care about that issue,” said republican Matt Jacobson. “I’m getting a lot of good feedback very quickly. And it gives me a chance to engage with many more people than I would be able to in person.”
SECOND GRADERS TWITTERING IN MAINE
“Teaching writing is very difficult, but it’s an essential skill,” she said. “It’s how we communicate primarily as humans. And more and more so with the digital world, because most of our communication is through writing.”
The classes started exchanging messages, known as Tweets, mid-February. The accounts are closed so only people who are approved to see them can. While the classes sometimes write the messages together, the students also write them on their own.
“The first time I just like, it was just some instant messaging blog,” said student Jennifer Noyes. “But now that I’m actually Twittering, I did it myself and I’ve done it more, I really like it.”
There are lessons in grammar, spelling, math — Twitter messages can’t be anymore than 140 characters — and online security and digital citizenship.
“That begins that whole modeling and what we’re going to share online,” said White. “We’re not going to share a picture of us being incredibly goofy unless that’s the point of what we’re doing.”
Most of the students seem to be enjoying themselves, and have adopted the technology. But there are some who are more hesitant. Zivi Osher is one of them.
“On the computer, you could accidently press the wrong letter and then you have to go back,” he said, explaining why he likes handwriting better than typing.
Other students explain using Twitter is almost like getting pen pals — on line. “I like talking to our friends,” said Claire Williamson. “It’s like you’re getting new connections to make new friends.”
“You get to talk with people,” said Avery Wild. “Like you get to see what they’re doing and then type in what you’re doing and then they write back what they’re doing. Then you kind of have this little connection. Instead of talking to one another, you can just type.”
The classes have also exchanged what they bring in for show-and-tell, and lessons they’re learning in class. Sometimes one class teaches the other something that wasn’t on the lesson plan. For example, last week, Mr. Thompson’s class was learning about Olympic runner Wilma Rudolph. Mrs. White’s class spent some time reading about Rudolph, a lesson that the teacher hadn’t planned.
So while twittering might be thought of as something for teenagers and adults, these students are saying — no way, it’s for us, too. Giving them one more door to information and learning.
STATE CONSIDERS LICENSE CHANGES JANUARY, 2008
Police arrested Niall Clark in October 2006 after he robbed a Bank of American branch in Bangor. Clark is from Ireland. He arrived in Maine first in April 2006 to take a driver’s test and obtain a driver’s license.
It was six months later, in October, when his visa had expired that he bought a gun using that driver’s license. He then robbed the bank.
Clark learned how he could get a license in Maine through the Bureau of Motor Vehicle’s Director of Licensing Services Robert O’Connell. Court documents show that O’Connell and Clark met in a bar on St. Patrick’s Day 2006. They exchanged several e-mails and the documents show that O’Connell told investigators that he thought Clark was in the country illegally, but he did not do anything wrong.
O’Connell is not facing any charges. But, upon learning about this case, Governor John Baldacci (D-Maine) said he wants to learn more.
“I don’t know enough about it,” he said. “It doesn’t sound very good. It sounds like someone should be investigating this person in charge of licensing and what process they used. Whether they followed personnel procedures in dealing with people. Doesn’t sound right, exchanging information in a bar. But I don’t all the facts, but I’d certainly want to look into it.”
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said this type of thing happens frequently. “People ask us for help all the time and we try and help them,” Dunlap said. “In that particular case, that’s exactly what we were trying to do. And sure, the documents are going to stand on their own. The action that our bureau took when Niall Clark was trying to find a way to get a driver’s license, he had no criminal history, he was a student, he asked us for help and we gave it to him. Nobody had any idea what was going to transpire after that.”
Dunlap said this case is one reason why Maine needs to change its driver’s license requirements. The legislature’s transportation committee is currently taking up LD 812, which would require residency in order to get a license. Currently, you don’t have to be a resident to get a Maine driver’s license. Dunlap said by making this change, the majority of problems would go away.
“When you talk about the immigration issue, which is what steers the lawful presence debate, my law enforcement people tell me the residency requirement as we discussed it would probably handle about 98 or 99 percent of the issue,” he said. “So it wasn’t really pressing for us, within the working group, to make that a more broader discussion at the time, but it’s something that should probably be discussed further on down the road.”
The reason why there’s no citizen requirement is Dunlap said immigration is a federal issue and he does not want BMV employees to be immigration officers. He said the government also does not provide a set of documents that are acceptable.
Governor Baldacci said as this bill moves forward, he wants everything, even citizenship, to be considered. “I think we got to look at all these things,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to make sure that we’re blending into the region. That we have the same procedures and security and apparatuses as we do with law enforcement.”
He wants the state to consider Enhanced Identification, which is similar to Real ID. He said a tightening of requirements is needed.
LD 812 came after U.S. Attorney Paula Silsby revealed that her office was investigating several cases where people were transporting illegal immigrants to Maine to get driver’s licenses. Her office prosecuted two men who each had three people who were coming to get licenses.
When they came to Maine, the first stop they’d make is the Social Security Office where they would get a paper that said the office could not process an application for a Social Security number. That paper would pass at the BMV for showing they were ineligible for such a number. Under protocol, if someone can show they are ineligible for a Social Security number, BMV workers enter 999-99-9999 in order to still process the application.
Secretary Dunlap said Wednesday that BMV workers no longer accept these papers. He said that the Social Security office is now printing on those papers that it is not proof of ineligibility. Therefore, he said that part of the process is curtailed.
There are about 2,125 driver’s licenses in Maine that do not have Social Security numbers attached to them. As those expire, Dunlap said the person holding that card will need to come in and bring their Social Security number or prove they are ineligible.
WHAT IS TWITTER? February, 2008
(NEWS CENTER) — The social networking site, Twitter, has millions of members, thousands here in Maine, so how does it work? Or better yet, what is it?
“There’s a million definitions out there,” said web designer Rich Brooks, aka @therichbrooks. “The best one I ever heard was: it’s a living roladex that responds to you.”
Brooks shared this thought at a recent Tweet Up in Portland. It’s an in person meeting of people on Twitter. Tweet Ups give people a chance to come out of their screen name and picture, and talk face-to-face.
Twitter started in 2006 and has recently gained world-wide popularity with celebrities such as MC Hammer, Jimmy Fallon and Shaquille O’Neal signing on. There are also news organizations and shows, including WLBZ and WCSH, on Twitter.
But every day people such as Brooks and Twitter friend, Chrystie Corns, aka @ccmaine, are also on the social networking site. Corns is a social marketing manager and likes reading what articles people are reading, and keeping up on her industry.
“So I’m always learning,” she said. “I’m always finding out what everyone else is learning about. What everyone else is sharing.”
Twitter asks the simple question, ‘What are you doing,’ and gives you 140 characters to answer. When first signing on, you must choose a screen name. From there, you can find people in your address book to “follow.” By searching through your friends’ lists and their friends’ list, the number of people you follow can grow as quickly or slowly as you would like.
Rita Siavelis, aka @ritasia, has been on Twitter for about two months and was at February’s Tweet Up. While Brooks and Corns use Twitter for business a lot, Siavelis said she uses it more to keep up with friends. “More casual stuff like what I’m doing,” she said. “I used it a lot when I was traveling.”
Cary Weston, aka @SWMC, on the other hand, said he does not use Twitter for his personal life at all. Instead, he uses it solely for his public relations business. “I can’t exist just on Twitter,” he said. “It’s like a window to all these other things.”
Weston warns, when logging onto Twitter for the first time, it may seem a bid odd and people may not “get it” at first. But he said give it time. “It doesn’t do anything,” he said. “It’s kind of like joining the chamber or joining the Rotary. Just by joining and sitting in a corner, you’re not going to benefit from the organization.”
It didn’t take long for Marc Eastman, aka @areyouscreening, to find people to follow. He writes reviews of movies and television shows and has a blog, so he sought out people in the same field.
“I kind of think of it now as solving one of the major problems with the internet in general, which is: The internet has everything, but it’s all out there,” said Eastman. “You can’t really do much with everything just sitting out there. With Twitter it’s like you have the whole internet and it comes to you.”
There are several tools people use to get their Twitter messages, called Tweets, including the web, but also a program called TweetDeck or applications for their PDAs.
Eastman’s advice for people considering whether to use Twitter is, “Think about what you do on the internet. What do you search for? What news do you get?” He said from there, search for those sites and people.
Corns said while Twitter is hard to explain to people who don’t use it, it can be compared to a search engine. “You can get instant answers like this. And even if they don’t know, they could point you to someone who does.”
There are several people at NEWS CENTER who use Twitter. Here’s a list of them:
- Hazel Chick, Executive Assistant, @hchick
- Caroline Cornish, Anchor/Reporter, @ccsquirrel
- Dan Frye, Photojournalist, @DanTheCameraGuy
- Samantha Hammond, Production Associate, @Sammiej
- Kelly LaBrecque, Meteorologist, @klabrecque
- Kara Matuszewski, Anchor/Reporter, @karamat
- Michele Mullen, New Media Sales Associate, @MicheleMullen
- Joanne Small, Accounting Manager, @SoPo_Jo
- Aimee Turner, Maine Moms Director, @AimeeLTurner