They won’t drive up in a police cruiser, or walk the beat downtown in a uniform. But every day, they are confronted by the worst kinds of criminals, and a category of human depravity that all of us should be lucky to avoid for our entire lives.
They are the men and women of the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit, and they are responsible for the investigation and arrests of people who use 21st century technology to commit crimes -- including child pornographers who abuse vulnerable children for profit, and the sick individuals who create demand for those products.
The 11 officers who make up the CCU do some of the hardest work of law enforcement. And they do their jobs well. Their investigations have taken predators off the streets and led to justice for abused children.
But they need our help.
The CCU needs about $89,000 of investment in new software, computer upgrades and renewed analyst training.
We recently learned that the state can expect a budget surplus of almost $73 million. That increased revenue is a good sign for Maine’s economy -- it means individuals and businesses are earning more than the experts had predicted.
Gov. Paul LePage has proposed putting all of that surplus in the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund, the state savings account more commonly known as the “rainy day fund.” I understand that impulse. We all know that when we receive unexpected money, the smart thing to do is to save it.
However, no families in our community would say it’s smart to put your whole paycheck into savings before the mortgage and car payment are made. Our state has some unpaid bills too, whether it’s the shortfall faced by our local schools or the investments needed in the CCU.
My house and senate colleagues on the appropriations are doing the hard work right now of striking the right fiscal balance. I testified before the committee on March 7, telling them about the critical need in the CCU, and I’m hopeful they’ll consider that need as they make their decisions about the upcoming surplus.
I am disgusted by the frequency of stories about criminals abusing children -- whether it’s the monster creating and distributing child pornography, or the degenerate trafficking those suffering children. But I’m far more wary of a scenario in which those stories are never published, because those criminals are allowed to operate with impunity, out of reach of law enforcement officers who can’t keep up with them.
In the high-tech world of computer crimes, our police officers need the best, most up-to-date resources available to keep up with criminals. Fortunately, the legislature should be able to provide this funding easily.
As always, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (207) 287-1515.