Maine police know sex trafficking is here, yet many still fail to fight it

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Check out these beautiful shots Troy Bennett took today of the city shrouded in fog

What we’re talking about

In 2015, between 200 and 300 Mainers were the victims of human trafficking, according to a recent estimate. But despite growing awareness of the issue, “police still struggle to devote the time, resources, manpower and expertise to pursue sting operations and investigations that could result in the arrests of johns and traffickers, and the recovery of trafficking victims,” reports the BDN’s Danielle McLean.

It’s a problem of both resources and approach, according to those on the front line of the fight against human trafficking — including the Portland Police Department.

Between 2013 and 2015 Portland police officers arrested 19 people on the charge of engaging in prostitution, according to Police Chief Michael Sauschuck. But the state might do better at combating sex trafficking if state laws were shifted to protect sex workers and penalize pimps and traffickers, said Portland Officer Mark Keller.

And resources are limited. Last year, Maine received $50,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice to offer short-term aid to victims of sex trafficking. The funds were nearly used up within months.

“If the state doesn’t have the resources to deal with this, how can you tell someone you can help them when you can’t help them?” asked Keller. “We’re losing.”

Read her full story here.

ICYMI

Women and minority owners are more common at Maine’s newest businessesDarren Fishell reports:

Social and cultural changes are making an impact on new business starts in Maine, with female- and minority-owned businesses showing up in greater numbers.

But while minority business ownership is on par with Maine’s relatively small non-white population, the share of female business owners remains about half of the state’s 51.1 percent female population.

No one expects Wessie to eat triathletes this weekend — On Friday, we led The Express with the news that the swimming portion of a Westbrook triathlon will take place Saturday in the Presumpscot River, where a huge snake was repeatedly spotted.

I pointed out then that the scientist who studied a skin left behind on a trail — which belonged to an anaconda — said that the snake was too small to be of any risk for humans. Police agree.

“We’re not concerned at all about people’s safety,” said Westbrook police Capt. Steven Goldberg. “It’s not a snake that’s venomous. It’s not a snake that’s going to attack humans,” he said, adding that the snake will probably be freaked out by all the activity.

“It’s going to be speeding trying to get away from there if anything,” he said.

The Fire Department will be on hand in case there’s an emergency on the river, he said.

RELATED: Part of the anaconda skin is now on display the Cryptozoology Museum, director Loren Coleman tweets.

A day in the life at Portland’s hottest new condo development! — Matt Dodge writes:

7 AM – Rise and shine!

Look outside your window to see the hardworking, industrious Maine people filling off to work down Franklin Street in eager anticipation of your patronage. While it can be confusing and distressing to see people work so hard for something as trivial as money, the double-walled windows and premium insulation will help drown out their screams of existential rage and general plebeian odor.

(This piece was satirical, in case you couldn’t tell.)

Someone painted over LePage on that mural — for real this time, maybe — Jake Bleiberg stopped by the now infamous mural of LePage along the Eastern Promenade trail. The governor is no longer there. The gray paint covering his likeness is dry.

The Big Idea

With no explanation, Maine rejects scarce funds for young people with mental illness — Matt Stone today broke this mysterious development:

In 2014, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services won a $1 million-per-year, five-year grant to help teenagers and young adults at risk for serious mental illness. But without explanation, the department recently turned away the remaining three years of federal funding, giving providers a month to wrap up services.


Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.