Skip Maine state header navigation
A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government
|Volume VI, Issue 7||July 2003|
By Detective Michael Webber, Maine Office of the Attorney General
In July of 2000 an Eastport man tried to have his twelve-year-old daughter kidnapped and sexually assaulted. The deal was proposed through an Internet chat room to a man from Central Maine who reported it to police. The man from Eastport, the girls father, went as far as to give directions to his daughters home, a description of his daughter, and a detailed description of how he wanted the crime committed. Shockingly, this was not the first time he had tried this. It was however the first time it was reported to the newly created Maine Computer Crimes Task Force.
Within hours, Task Force investigators, working with detectives from the Maine State Police, having only the fathers e-mail address and a printed copy of the on-line conversation, tracked the offender to his home in Eastport, Maine.
A criminal case was quickly put together and measures were taken to protect the young girl. Her father was soon charged with Solicitation to Commit Kidnapping and Sexual Assault. He later admitted to the crimes and was convicted in Maine Superior Court.
This is only one of the many success stories involving the Vassalboro based hi-tech crime unit. The Maine Computer Crimes Task Force has been called upon to assist in homicide and drug trafficking investigations, stalking, domestic violence and harassment cases, even a bank robbery when a computer was used to plan the offense. The priority and majority of their work however surrounds the often-endless cases of Internet Child Exploitation.
The Maine Computer Crimes Task Force Computer Forensic Lab at the Lewiston Police Department (pictured above)
The Maine Computer Crimes Task Force was formed in 1999 when a partnership was forged with New Hampshire and Vermont Police to create the Northern New England Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP, http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/) funded the pilot project. The tri-state law enforcement team mirrors the Maine law enforcement unit by focusing on investigations, public outreach, and law enforcement training. The pilot project has been so successful that twenty more sites have been funded around the nation.
The Maine Computer Crimes Task Force has three full time staff members consisting of a detective from the Lewiston Police Department and the Maine State Police; both of which are donated by their respective agencies. A third member, the supervisor of the unit, was added nearly two years ago through a budget awarded through the legislature. These three officers form the investigative and forensic component of the task force.
They are responsible for coordinating computer crime investigations state-wide, but focus primarily on conducting computer forensic investigations; a skill which they have developed over a three year period and throughout hundreds of hours of classroom, practical exams, and certification exams. To date, they have conducted over 600 forensic computer exams of laptop, tower and desktop computers, Palm Pilots, and even digital cameras; a daunting task when one considers that each exam may take up to eighty hours. Two Assistant Attorney Generals from the Maine Office of the Attorney General provide the task force with legal support.
The task force also includes representatives of local law enforcement agencies who have been designated by their chief or sheriff as responsible for investigating crimes involving computers. They are trained by task force staff to investigate basic complaints and process computer crime scenes so that the evidence may be taken to the task force lab for forensic exam. The primary focus of these members though, is to provide outreach training in their respective communities. They offer courses on protecting children on-line to teachers, community groups, and school children. The programs are nationally recognized and no doubt help in protecting our childrens safety on-line.
Detective James Rioux of the Lewiston Police Department and Detective Inez Dudley of the Brunswick Police Department examining digital evidence at the Lewiston lab.
The members of the task force are considered experts in their highly evolving and technical field. The Task Force itself has served as a model nationwide. Staff has spoken at national Internet Crimes Against Children Conferences regarding techniques and protocols developed by its members. In one investigation, in which over 150 suspects in Maine were connected to a web site that sold access to child pornography, Maine held one of the highest prosecution percentages of all the thirty Internet Crime Against Children units.
The Task Force continues to expand its coverage state-wide through regionalization. A second computer forensic lab has been constructed at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro. Two of the three full time staff members have moved to that location, while a satellite lab and one examiner has remained in Lewiston. This will provide better coverage and help to reduce the strain of evidence storage at the Lewiston Police Department.
The Maine Computer Crimes Task Forces newly renovated computer forensic lab, located at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.
In conclusion, the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force has been a huge success. It is an example of successful collaboration between local, county, and state law enforcement, prosecutors and the public. It serves as a model nationwide and continues to serve as the only computer forensic lab in the State of Maine.
If you would like more information about the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force, please contact Sergeant Glenn Lang at 877-8081. You may visit their web site at www.mcctf.org.
Detective Webber is a certified forensic computer examiner and served full time on the task force prior to joining the Maine Office of the Attorney General. He can be reached at 626-8594.