Persistent shock value necessary

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN
Posted April 17, 2009, at 9:16 p.m.

Maine State Police Sgt. Glenn Lang is no longer shocked when his computer crime investigations lead him into the neat and tidy homes of Scout leaders, teachers, police officers or even criminal prosecutors.

And what he eventually finds on the hard drives of their computers no longer surprises him either, but it does continue to horrify and haunt him.

“The only thing that still catches me a bit by surprise is if the accused is a woman,” he said this week. “A female sex offender or child pornographer is still an anomaly. Other than that, absolutely nothing surprises me. These offenders cross all socioeconomic boundaries. There is virtually no common profile.”

Lang heads up the state’s computer crimes unit at the Department of Public Safety and in the past year has seen the amount of child pornography being downloaded in Maine surge by 208 percent.

This week a well-known man from Sangerville, 49-year-old Larry Daggett, whose wife has run a day care in their home, was arrested by state and federal authorities for allegedly possessing child porn.

Two days later, 41-year-old Michael Douglas, a science teacher at Mount View Junior High School, was charged with possession of child pornography. Also this week came the news that a respected longtime music teacher from Searsport, 39-year-old William Wiley, had been arrested on four counts of unlawful sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl.

Wiley has not been charged with any computer-related crimes, but the sexual abuse of children, whether by computer or in person, continues to frighten and stun communities.

Lang is not shocked anymore, but the people who work, socialize and live near the accused are.

The state’s computer crimes unit is not very large. Lang and one detective do almost all of the investigative work. Late last month Lang testified before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, urging lawmakers to dig deep to find some much-needed resources for the small unit charged with investigating one of the most prevalent and complicated crimes in the state.

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, Lang said.

“We are speculating that it’s around 1,500 individuals” who are involved, he told lawmakers.

Right now the unit has about 200 search warrants ready to be acted upon, and Douglas and Daggett were among them.

“We certainly do the best we can, but the amount of time and paperwork involved in each of these warrants is enormous,” Lang said.

The thing that the members of the unit live with as they struggle to claw their way through the cases that pile up on their desks is the danger the offenders pose to children. Those investigators work with the knowledge that children here and elsewhere are suffering from sexual abuse and exploitation while they dig their way through those piles — case by case.

“Some people may argue that these people are only looking at pictures or videos, but first of all that’s a major violation in itself. But I can guarantee you just by statistics that many of those who are looking are also acting on this obsession. The bottom line is if you dream and obsess about motorcycles long enough, chances are you are eventually going to get yourself a motorcycle. Same goes here. … That haunts us when we go home at night because we know that kids, and I’m talking little kids and babies, are at immediate risk,” he said.

Today Lang’s unit is busy ranking cases. For example, the Sangerville case became a top priority when investigators learned that a day care center was located in the same house where the accused lived.

That’s the best they can do.

I understand why Lang is no longer shocked by what he sees hidden deep inside the recesses of the hard drives of some of our supposedly respectable community members.

I know that it’s sad and frightening for the community members who must come to grips with the reality of the crimes of their co-workers, friends and neighbors when the latter are convicted.

But the saddest day of all, I think, will be when you and I are no longer shocked at all.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/04/17/news/persistent-shock-value-necessary/ printed on August 2, 2014