Domestic violence homicide remains Maine’s deadliest crime, accounting for about half the state’s murders every year.

This is nothing new. We have been reading the same statistics for two decades now, and although we know much more about the dynamics of these toxic relationships, and great strides have been taken to counsel and protect victims, some things don’t change.

It is a reliable prediction that, barring some dramatic change, about a dozen Mainers, almost all of them women and children, will be murdered by a member of their household in 2012. And after the fact, people will wonder how they missed the signs. Some of these murders will be committed by people involved in civil or criminal court proceedings and they will be known to law enforcement.

In the waning days of 2011, we should all be asking what can change to avoid these tragedies.

A panel of law enforcement officers has looked into one recent case, and provides some insight into what those changes should be.

They researched the murder of a mother and two children and suicide perpetrated by Steven Lake of Dexter last June, and found ways that the family could have been made safer.

Lake was subject to a protection-from-abuse order and had been ordered to surrender his collection of firearms. But he violated the order and had possession of two guns at the time of the killings.

The experts suggested ways in which violations of protection orders should be treated. And they advocate the creation of a new felony crime for someone who keeps or tries to acquire a gun when he or she is under a protection-from-abuse order. But those changes come into play only after an abuser is caught in violation, which in some cases would be too late.

A more promising suggestion was the use of Global Positioning System technology to track the subjects of protection orders and provide instant notice if they violate them. This would not be a perfect solution, but one that has the potential of giving police a fighting chance to intervene before it’s too late.

Domestic violence homicide is an old problem for Maine, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to solve. If there is more that can be done to prevent these crimes, we should be ready to do it.