Child porn stats shock lawmakers

By Mal Leary, Capitol News Service
Posted March 29, 2009, at 8:02 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, said she had trouble sleeping the night after hearing that the amount of child pornography being downloaded from the Internet in Maine has increased 208 percent in one year.

“The impact of that presentation was incredibly strong on our committee,” she said. “It is very scary, particularly because it affects the lives of children.”

State police Sgt. Glenn Lang, supervisor of the State Police Computer Crimes Unit, told lawmakers the number of times a video or pornographic picture of children is downloaded to a computer in Maine went from 14,951 times in 2007 to 43,530 times in 2008.

“We are speculating it’s around 1,500 individuals,” he said. “This is just from the activity reported that traces IP addresses that we receive from law enforcement agencies around the world.”

Lang told lawmakers he is sure there are transfers of child pornographic images that are not being tracked by police. He said the numbers that are available come from tracing traffic over peer-to-peer networks more commonly used for sharing music.

Lang’s comment that most child pornographers use their own names on the Internet to share surprised Rep. Pat Flood, R-Winthrop.

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“Do you just catch the dumb ones with this process?” he asked Lang.

“I think we catch the sick ones,” Lang responded. “I think a lot of these people can’t help themselves.”

He said the unit has stepped up its enforcement efforts, analyzing more computer hard drives than in 2007 and issuing 506 subpoenas for information in 2008, up from 165 in 2007. The unit also increased the number of search warrants it served from 28 to 41.

“Right now we have approximately 203 targets that we have identified in Maine in possession of prepubescent, hard-core child pornography,” Lang said.

He said the cases the unit has dealt with are from 2-month-old to 10-year-old children, both girls and boys.

Committee members were clearly upset at the scope of the problem and its apparent growth in Maine. Rep. John Robinson, R- Raymond, said he is disturbed by the situation.

“Being a parent of two young children, a 2½-year-old and a 4½-year-old, I appreciate all you folks do,” he said. “I have to temper my thoughts on what we should do with these offenders.”

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, the committee co-chair, said what the panel can do is to provide additional resources to reduce the backlog of cases that need further investigation.

Lang said that about 300 cases with varying levels of complexity need investigation.

“There is going to be an effort made to deal with that backlog,” Diamond said. “We cannot leave this legislative session knowing that sitting in a closet 20 feet from someone’s desk is the evidence needed to take a child molester or child pornographer off the streets.”

He said that even though the state budget is short of resources, he believes the committee will make additional resources for the computer crimes unit a priority.

Rep. Sawin Millett, R-Waterford, the lead GOP member of the panel, agreed.

“If there is a way to find some money to address the backlog and get them the kind of resources they need to get more aggressive and stay current, I certainly am supportive of it,” he said. “I was very impressed with the presentation.”

Both suggested that one solution would be to use some of the 10 trooper positions being sought under federal stimulus funding. The program would cover the pay and benefits of a position for three years, with the state responsible for the fourth-year costs.

“We can hope after that time the backlog would have been addressed,” Diamond said.

Other lawmakers are working to provide the unit with additional tools to prosecute pornographers. Rep. Ann Haskell, D-Portland, has introduced a bill requiring Internet service providers in Maine to keep records of site visits by users for six months.

“I heard a presentation by Sgt. Lang where he said a problem they have is when they go to prove a case, the record at the ISP may have been erased,” she said. “Most already keep the records, but not all.’

That measure has just been printed and has not been scheduled for a hearing.

Additional funding for the computer crime unit will be considered in the budget meetings of the Appropriations Committee.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/03/29/politics/child-porn-stats-shock-lawmakers/ printed on October 25, 2014