November 16, 2011

Maine Voices: We cannot turn our backs on victims of child sex abuse

Protecting young children from the online porn industry is a human rights issue, not a budget issue.

By Bill Diamond, a Windham Democrat representing District 12 in the Maine Senate

The Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit plays a vital role in rescuing sexually abused children. The unit is literally a lifesaver for hundreds of kids who are filmed and photographed for the online pornographic industry.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, represents District 12 in the Maine Senate.

"Looking at images of children and babies -- infants -- being sexually molested, raped and seeing the suffering without being able to rescue them immediately, is the toughest part of this job," said Lt. Glenn Lang, supervisor of the CCU.

The CCU's record of accomplishments goes right to the core of what citizens and lawmakers alike agree is the most important function of government: protecting our children.

Amazingly, the CCU has had to desperately search for funds through grants and other sources every year just to keep the unit operating. Considering the importance of the work done by the unit, it has been frustrating over the years to see the lack of support by the various department administrators.

The most disturbing fact is that the CCU has gathered forensic evidence from confiscated personal computers containing videos and pictures of severe sexual abuse of children and babies. This is critical evidence that would quickly lead to arrests and prosecutions of pedophiles and would take violent predators off the streets and away from their unsuspecting victims.

Sadly, this proof of child sexual abuse is sitting in a closet, waiting for a visit from common sense. Why is this crucial evidence not being processed? Because there are not enough staff at the CCU to keep up with analyzing the hard drives that contain the vital evidence.

The CCU has four forensic examiner positions and as of this past September had 152 forensic exam requests in its backlog. That translates to 152 potential/probable sexual predators who are still on the streets sexually abusing children or seeking new victims.

With existing staff and, depending on the size of the various waiting hard drives, it could take anywhere from six months to over a year to clear the backlog -- and that's not considering the new cases that continue coming to the unit on a regular basis.

It is bewildering and, frankly, unconscionable that our government would allow evidence of this nature that is available for processing to sit untouched. The public really has no idea about this deplorable situation, but when the facts finally become known and people realize that pedophiles are being allowed to continue plotting and engaging in sexual abuses of children simply because someone decided not to hire two or three additional detectives to analyze evidence, faces will be red. And, worse, children will suffer needlessly. The embarrassing question that will be asked by the public and the media will be: "What were you thinking?"

When inquiries were made over the years regarding the need for more trained staff at the CCU, the answer by various administrators has been: "We cannot afford to help right now -- it's a budget issue."

Really? The state has a $6.5 billion budget and I defy anyone to explain what expenditure is more important than rescuing children who are being raped, sodomized and assaulted while being filmed and photographed for the sexual gratification of paying child porn viewers. The children, with blank faces, vacant stares and torn souls, have no tears left and do not understand why this is happening to them and why it does not stop. What do we say to these innocent children? "Sorry, it's a budget issue?"

This is a human rights issue for these children and we cannot turn our backs on them any longer.

The professional heroes who work daily at the CCU to find ways to rescue these kids are unique and will tell you that it is bad enough to see older looking children -- 14 to 15 years old -- being sexually assaulted; but seeing the videos and pictures of the most innocent of all, young children and babies, being used in such a horrific manner is even more difficult.

The Computer Crimes Unit needs our support because of the critical role it plays every day. Its investigators are unknown but they are heroes -- just ask the sexually abused children they rescue.

-- Special to The Press Herald

 

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