ME computer crime unit needs more funding

Lawmakers say state police are underfunded to monitor web use of those on probation with condition they not visit certain websites.

State lawmakers are pressing for $100,000 funding for the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit, which is tasked with stopping certain sex offenders from visiting social networking sites popular with kids. The computer unit apparently doesn't have enough funding to do the job, reports the Portland Press Herald.

"I do get calls in my community asking, 'What more can we do?'�" Rep. Jeremy Fischer, a Democrat, told members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Friday. "We have to provide resources so we can make our law effective."

As a condition of probation, some sex offenders are prohibited from visiting certain Web sites. With additional money, the Maine State Police could train probation officers to check computer use by those on probation, Maj. Bob Williams said.

The Computer Crimes Unit has six full-time employees and a forensic examiner. The annual budget for the state unit is about $550,000.

If there's opposition to the bill, it's simply that it doesn't go far enough.

Rep. Patricia Blanchette, a Democrat, said she doesn't think an extra $100,000 per year is enough. She asked whether those with computer knowledge should hold seminars to teach adults how to surf the Web. "There's a whole generation of grandparents who are raising grandchildren who have no working knowledge of a computer," she said.

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