Sen. Diamond introduces bill to protect Maine children from sexual abuse

Posted: March 24, 2021 | Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Senator Diamond

AUGUSTA – On Monday, Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, introduced a bill to help the Maine State Police protect Maine children from sexual abuse. LD 438, “An Act To Increase Public Safety by Adding a Position to the Computer Crimes Unit of the Maine State Police,” would add staffing to a unit of the Maine State Police (MSP) whose responsibilities include investigating illegal activities involving the production, buying, selling and swapping of online child sexual abuse materials. The bill was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

“Around the world and across our state, children are being victimized by the production and dissemination of child sexual abuse materials,” said Sen. Diamond. “In Maine, our best defense against these criminals is the Computer Crimes Unit, or CCU. We have the opportunity before us to improve our efforts to protect our children in Maine by giving the CCU some of the obvious tools they need to prevent predators from hurting children.”

As currently written, LD 438 adds one computer forensic analyst position to the CCU. A recommended amendment would change the bill to give the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee the power to determine how many and which additional positions in the CCU to include in the final bill. Computer forensic analysts work in tandem with detectives in the CCU to investigate tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Over the past four years, the number of case referrals and tips has nearly tripled.

The current number of forensic analysts and detectives in the CCU is too small to manage the current demand, leading to a backlog of cases waiting to be investigated. In the meantime, perpetrators are left to continue victimizing children. For example, at the CCU offices today there are stacks of evidence taken from suspects that shows thousands of images of children being sexually abused. However, because there aren’t enough analysts and investigators to examine the evidence, the suspects are free to abuse more children.

LD 438 faces further action in committee.