Department of Public Safety

Maine law aimed to protect some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens

From the desk of Shannon Moss, DPS PIO


Losing a child in a split second can happen to anyone but for parents of children with an intellectual or developmental disability the chances are higher and the worry greater.

“It was something we were in constant fear about,” said Maeghan Swanson of Presque Isle who is the mother of a 12-year-old boy with autism. Swanson knows all too well that children with autism are known to wander or bolt which can lead them into dangerous situations.

Swanson’s concern for her child and other children with disabilities prompted her to contact representative Senator Harold “Trey” Stewart. Their conversation is what ultimately led to the creation of LD 28, An Act to Create an Alert System to Notify the Public when a Person with an Intellectual or Developmental Disability is Missing. The bill was signed into law by Governor Mills on May 25, 2021.  

"I was thrilled to see the support that LD 28 garnered throughout the legislative process. It's an example of the positive outcomes’ parents can see when they advocate for their children, as my constituent Maeghan did for hers” said Senator Stewart. “By coming together with stakeholders and the Maine Department of Public Safety we were able to address a serious gap in Maine's emergency alert system and fix it through the bill that I sponsored.  I'm confident that this legislation will protect some of Maine's most vulnerable citizens and help to save lives in emergencies and am proud to see it go into effect." 

To increase efficiency the Department of Public Safety incorporated the new program into the state’s Silver Alert program which in 2010 was developed for missing senior citizens with cognitive impairments. The updated Silver Alert now includes both alert programs.

“This update to our Silver Alert program provides Law Enforcement and families in our State with another means to quickly disseminate information on a missing endangered person without an age limit,” said Brodie Hinckley, Director of Emergency Communications. “It is another effective tool in our toolbelt to help during these stressful situations. I want to thank Senator Stewart and Maeghan for bringing this bill forward and working with us to update the current Silver Alert program.”

Maine is now the 18th state and the only New England state to have an alert system for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“As the mother of a special needs child, I know all too well that often mere minutes can make a difference when it comes to finding a child that has eloped or wandered” said Maeghan Swanson. “The passage of this bill provides first responders and the public with critical information that will more than likely help save the lives of children across the state.  For my son and for so many others, I am so grateful to live in a state that has moved in this direction and is striving to support our special needs community.”
 

Crime continues to decrease in Maine for 9th consecutive year

From the desk of Shannon Moss, DPS PIO

Crime in Maine decreased -6.1% during 2020, according to the Maine Department of Public Safety. It is the ninth consecutive year that crime has dropped in Maine for a total decline during the past nine years of -62.7%.  Crime dropped -6.6 in 2019, -9.3 in 2018, -8.2% in 2017, -8.7% in 2016, -7.1% in 2015, -13% in 2014, -8.3% in 2013, and -1.5% in 2012.

The 17,347 crimes reported in 2020 represent a crime rate of 14 offenses per 1,000 people in Maine. That number compares to the national crime rate of 25 offenses per 1,000 population for 2019.  
                                                                                                                      
The total number of both adults and juveniles summoned or cited by police decreased for 2020.  Adult arrests decreased -15.9% in 2020 with 30,615 arrest reported and 2019 reporting 36,412 arrests/summons for the year. Juveniles also showed a decrease of -32.1% in 2020 with 1,689 juveniles being arrested or summonsed compared to 2,491 arrests for 2019.  

 
“Maine’s law enforcement professionals and our amazing community partners have delivered a ninth straight year of crime reduction and we truly thank you for your compassion and dedication to our residents,” said Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck. “Our complex world was complicated further with ongoing covid related protocols and safety concerns, but you selflessly reported for duty. This is just the latest example of your willingness to evolve as a profession and I look forward to further enhancing our efforts to Protect and Serve,” Sauschuck said.

Violent Crime

Overall violent crimes saw a decrease of -4.9% for 2020. 
Violent crime categories include homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assaults.  

The crime rate for violent crime in Maine continues to be one offense per 1,000 population compared to the national average of 4 per 1,000 population.  

Homicides remained the same for 2020, with 22 reported for 2020, also for 2019. Of the 22 homicides for 2020, 5 were domestic violence related. Nine were domestic violence related in 2019.

Robbery reported a decrease of -11.4% with 171 incidents reported for 2020 and 193 incidents reported for 2019. This is the fifth year in a row that robberies have decreased.

Aggravated assaults reported a decrease of -3.1% with 790 incidents being reported in 2020 vs. 815 incidents being reported in 2019.
 
Rape incidents decreased -4.9% with a total of 489 incidents reported in 2020 and 514 incidents reported in 2019, a decrease of 25 incidents reported for 2020. 

“The number of rapes reported to law enforcement in 2020 points to the significant trauma many Mainers have endured. And yet, according the Muskie School’s Maine Crime Victimization Survey, we know that an estimated 14,000 Mainers will experience this crime each year, indicating that the vast majority of survivors are not reporting to law enforcement – a fact that has been further influenced by this pandemic,” said Elizabeth Ward Saxl, Executive Director of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault. 
 
Maine’s sexual assault support centers are always available to support victims whether they choose to make a report to law enforcement or not. 
 
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, the statewide confidential helpline is available 24-hours a day at 1-800-871-7741 or visit www.mecasa.org.


Domestic violence assaults decreased -6% in 2020, with 3,468 incidents reported for 2020 compared 3,689 incidents reported in 2020.  

“Sadly, the reduction in calls to law enforcement regarding domestic violence raises more concerns than hopes for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. There has been no similar reduction in the numbers of domestic violence victims reaching out to our 24-hour helplines,” said Francine Garland Stark, Executive Director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. “Maine’s Domestic Violence Resource Centers provided critical assistance to more than 11,000 adults in crisis in FY 2021 and calls with survivors were up 13% compared to the previous year. The criminal justice system is an important component of our community’s safety net for adult and child victims of domestic violence, but it is essential that we recognize that effectively intervening and ending domestic violence requires a multi-layered and community-wide approach in which those who believe they can treat their intimate partners and families horribly will be convinced to change their beliefs and abusive behavior, and that those they harm are supported to be safe and secure.”

If someone you know has experienced domestic violence reach out to MCEDV at 1-866-834-HELP (4357) or visit www.mcedv.org


Property Crime

Property Crime saw a decrease of -6.2% overall, dropping from 17,113 in 2019 to 16,046 in 2020, a reduction of 1,067. Property crime categories include burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle Theft, and arson.

  

Burglary reports decreased -13.7% in 2020 with 2,019 incidents reported in 2020 and 2,340 incidents reported in 2019.   

Larceny-theft reported a decreased of -6.5% in 2020 with 12,820 incidents reported in 2020 and 13,711 incidents reported in 2019.  

Motor Vehicle Thefts reported an increase of +18.4% in 2020 with 857 vehicles reported stolen and 724 vehicles stolen in 2019. 

The value of property stolen during 2020 was reported as $18,426,296 with 2019 reporting $18,697,782 Agencies recovered $5,839,052 in stolen property in 2020 for a recovery rate of 31.7%. 

Arson incidents also showed an increase of +23.4% for 2020 with 179 incidents being reported vs. 145 being reported for 2019. 

Arson property value reported a decrease of -14.5% with the Property value being reported at $2,923,249 for 2020.

Crime in Maine 2020 Chart

 

Department of Public Safety Security Update

The Maine Department of Public Safety is aware of the reports from the FBI about the potential for armed protests in every state capitol, including Maine, and takes them extremely seriously. 

The Maine State Police, through the Maine Information Analysis Center (MIAC), remains in contact with Federal partners – including the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others – to maintain situational awareness about the potential for civil unrest activities. It is also tracking the potential for Maine-based civil unrest independently, analyzing intelligence and tips received, and will work with partners to respond appropriately and as needed. As of now, the Department of Public Safety, as a result of national reports, is specifically tracking and preparing for potential events in Augusta on January 17th and January 20th. The Maine National Guard is engaged in these planning discussions with the Department should additional support be needed. 
 
The Capitol building itself, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Legislature, is currently closed to the public and the Legislature is not using it to meet presently because of the pandemic. Furthermore, most staff from the Legislature, as well as those who work in surrounding State government buildings, are working remotely as a result of the pandemic. The Bureau of Capitol Police is the law enforcement agency responsible for protecting the safety of the State Capitol and the office buildings that comprise the seat of Maine’s government. It takes that mission seriously. In response to the events last week and new reports outlined by the FBI, the Capitol Police, with the support of the Maine State Police, has increased its presence in and around the Capitol. In the coming days, the Capitol Police will continue to adjust protocols appropriately, when and as needed, but, as a matter of longstanding practice, it does not discuss more specific operational details of its work. 
 
Our goal is to facilitate the peaceful and lawful expression of speech and to protect the welfare and safety of all Maine people, and we will continue to work to achieve that.
 

Maine State Police Statement on Third-Party Data Breach Involving the Maine Information and Analysis Center (MIAC) 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  
June 26, 2020 

The MIAC was notified on June 20, 2020 of a data breach by Netsential, a company that provides third-party web hosting services to over 200 law enforcement and government agencies throughout the United States. We were told this data breach may have included information from the MIAC, consequently, we notified our partner agencies of the possible data breach with recommendations on mitigation measures, such as creating awareness for phishing attacks and changing passwords.  Since then the MIAC has been working to assess the extent of the data breach with our state, local and federal partners, including the FBI Houston Field Office, which is actively investigating this incident. 

Earlier today we received confirmation that datasets submitted to the MIAC by partner organizations and are maintained by Netsential have been compromised and made public through various unlawful means.  Our initial analysis revealed some of these files contain information distributed among law enforcement and government agencies.  The MIAC has been utilizing the services of this vendor since 2017.

The most common documents shared are crime information and situational awareness bulletins that are used to assist in solving crimes, to connect regional incidents and to create situational awareness for public safety entities and private sector partners throughout the State. These bulletins often contain identifying information, such as full name and date of birth of people under investigation by other law enforcement agencies.  They may also involve individuals wanted for criminal activity or individuals reported as missing.  We will be engaging in additional, more specific notifications to those agencies affected as we learn what the contents of those breaches are to ensure that ongoing investigations are not jeopardized.    

Fusion Centers were created to enhance public safety and encourage effective, efficient, ethical, lawful, and professional intelligence and information sharing.  MIAC’s mission is to prevent and reduce the harmful effects of crime and terrorism on victims, individuals, and communities while protecting people’s privacy, civil rights and civil liberties. 

For more information please contact Lieutenant Michael Johnston via e-mail at Michael.P.Johnston@Maine.Gov
   
 

COMMISSIONER'S RESPONSE TO MAINE SUNDAY TELEGRAM STORY

   

DPS

The Maine State Police are proud of our history of service to Maine people, and we value our relationships with the citizens and communities we are fortunate to serve. Those relationships are critical to earning the support, respect, and trust of the public that is central to our success. That is why, in the wake of a recent Maine Sunday Telegram story, we believe it is important that the public understand our philosophy and specific activities regarding new technologies, information gathering and investigative techniques.

Often the very technology that keeps us connected, keeps us safe, and makes our lives easier also creates questions and a natural anxiety about our personal privacies. Take ‘facial recognition’ for example. This refers generally to the hardware and software algorithms that examine facial features and match these to known photos. This is the same technology that can open a mobile device or an app, unlock a door, and connect friends on social media.

When it comes to law enforcement, agencies typically use this technology as an investigative tool in the aftermath of a crime. For example, a digital image or video of a crime obtained from a home video security system or commercial video alarm system may help identify a suspect. This process of gathering and using digital evidence is just like recovering a fingerprint or DNA at a crime scene. The use of this technology in these cases is simply another tool in addition to the common practice of publicly releasing the digital image on TV or social media to enlist help from the public. We believe that the public expects that the police have the ability and resources to take a digital image – or forensic evidence – from a crime scene and identify the suspect that broke into their home, stole their property, or injured their loved ones.

It is important, however to clearly distinguish Maine law enforcement’s use of this technology from the practice of ‘surveillance’, ‘spying’, or generally gathering information such as video or photos in public places in order to ‘track’ or monitor the activities of people not suspected of crimes. In the wake of the Maine Sunday Telegram report, we thought it was important to let you know what the Maine State Police does and does not do:

  •  The State Police does not own or operate facial recognition technology;
  • The State Police has requested facial recognition technology assistance from other agencies out of state to assist reactively with ongoing criminal investigations;
  • The State Police does operate the Maine Information and Analysis Center (MIAC), the State’s designated fusion center. This center serves an important function for Maine’s public and private sectors;
  • The State Police (including the MIAC) does not utilize facial recognition technology to conduct ‘surveillance’, ‘spying’, tracking or monitoring of the general public or individuals not suspected of criminal activity; and
  • The State Police does routinely test and evaluate new tools and technologies to determine their effectiveness, appropriateness, and relevancy as we work to keep abreast of new technologies and techniques that may help us accomplish our mission effectively and efficiently. An example of this testing process is the participation of the State Bureau of Identification in a federal facial recognition trial that began sporadically in December 2015 and ended prior to September 2018. The involvement of the Maine State Police was limited to comparing a small number of photos with publicly-available mugshots. This test gave us a better understanding of future possible uses and limitations of this technology to investigate crime.

In closing, we are all trying to understand and evaluate the potential value and efficiencies that technology may offer, as well as the risks and concerns that may follow. We believe that the key to minimizing these risks is in finding a responsible balance of privacy and security. Over the years we have been active participants along with the legislature, prosecutors and other stakeholders in helping craft statute and sound policy for Maine on a number of privacy issues.

We look forward to continuing these efforts to establish sound, reasonable policy for Maine because we live in the communities that we serve and share the same interest in making our state a better place to live and work.

Commissioner Michael J. Sauschuck
Maine Department of Public Safety
 



45 COMMERCE DRIVE, SUITE 1, 104 STATE HOUSE STATION, AUGUSTA, ME 04333-0104
TEL: (207) 626-3805 | TTY: (888) 524-7900 | FAX: (207) 287-3042

 

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