Around the State: State Police want more resources to combat child porn

HUNTINGTON – West Virginia State Police officials say they need more manpower to combat child pornography and Internet sexual predators.

The State Police digital forensics lab at Marshall University in Huntington has two civilian analysts and a six-month backlog of cases. A similar lab in Morgantown has one civilian analyst and a 14-month backlog.

State police officials recently met at the Huntington lab with members of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Crimes Against Children to inform the lawmakers about the need for more staff.

Sgt. Dave Eldrige told the lawmakers that the State Police Crimes Against Children Unit conducted 665 investigations in 2012 and made 197 arrests.

“It’s just the material they consume to hold themselves over until they can get their hands on a new kid,” Eldridge said. “It feeds their fantasy and it feeds the sex drive to go out there and rape and torture a child.”

The unit’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force works backward from forensics gleaned by investigations to find the traffickers and molesters, and the discover the victims.

In a recent case, a Morgantown man tried to hire a baby-sitter who would also perform sexual favors. He was sentenced earlier this month to two to 10 years in prison for soliciting a minor online. The 15-year-old he’d been communicating with was actually a task force officer.

Investigating these cases takes a toll on troopers and the agency tries to rotate them to other duties for breaks. “That’s why we need more manpower,” said D.L. Frye, commander of the Crimes Against Children Unit. “We would love to be a lot more proactive than we are. We don’t have the people to do it. We can’t keep up with what we’re trying to do now, let alone be proactive.”

 

CLARKSBURG

Hoping for Home Rule: Five cities in North Central West Virginia plan to apply to participate in the state’s Municipal Home Rule Program.

The program shifts power from the state to the local level and gives cities a larger say in how they govern.

Clarksburg, Fairmont, Morgantown, Buckhannon and Elkins are preparing applications to participate.

Issues that the cities are studying include code enforcement and job creation.

The program began as a five-year pilot in four cities. This year, the Legislature allowed a total 20 municipalities to participate.

Applications will be accepted through June 1.

 

WHEELING

Prayers for the Philippines: The spiritual leader of West Virginia’s Roman Catholics is asking parishes to remember the devastation in the Philippines at church services this weekend.

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield is appealing to every parish in the state to take a special second collection to help those affected by a powerful typhoon.

Typhoon Haiyan slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday, wiping away buildings and leveling seaside homes.

Bransfield said all collections next weekend will go Catholic Relief Services. The international outreach agency is poised to respond to the overwhelming Catholic country.

Bransfield says several priests of Filipino heritage minister in West Virginia.

 

MORGANTOWN

Hospital face funding loss: West Virginia University Hospitals is facing a $25 million loss under a change in federal health-care funding.

The news emerged Friday during a meeting of the Board of Governors.

Health Sciences Chancellor Christopher Colenda updated the board on the Affordable Care Act and its impact in West Virginia.

A big impact for WVU Hospitals and the West Virginia United Hospital System is the loss of federal dollars given to hospitals such as Ruby Memorial Hospital.

They had been receiving money for serving as safety-net hospitals, providing care for the uninsured. Those funds went away with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Increases in Medicaid and insured patients were expected to offset the loss, but Colenda said that assumption probably won’t be realized.

 

CHARLESTON

Oh, deer: State game officials are advising motorists to keep an eye out for deer as West Virginia enters the peak season for those damaging encounters between vehicle and deer.

Gary Foster of the Division of Natural Resources reports that 40 percent of the state’s deer collisions occur in October and November. During those two months is the annual rut, or mating season for deer. That means deer are on the move.

Hunters in the woods also make deer more active.

West Virginia is often ranked highest in deer-vehicle collisions each year.

According to State Farm, the average West Virginia driver has a 1-in-41 chance of hitting a deer over the next year.

The insurer says a typical deer collision causes an average of $3,414 in property damage.

 

Seeking high school poets: High school students across West Virginia have three more weeks to register for a poetry competition.

Called “Poetry Out Loud,” the contest features high school students memorizing and reciting poetry for an audience. Besides the joy of poetry, the competition also helps students develop public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

Dec. 2 is the deadline to register with the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. The competition begins at the school level, with winners advancing to the March state competition in Charleston.

Winners from each state and U.S. territory compete at the national finals in Washington next April.

The state champion receives $200 and an all-expenses paid trip to the nation’s capital. His or her school also receives $500 to purchase poetry books.

 

MARTINSBURG

Child neglect conviction: A Maryland woman faces up to 30 years in prison following her child neglect conviction.

Jasmine K. Dawkins, 24, of Waldorf, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 16 in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

A West Virginia jury convicted Dawkins on Friday of two child neglect counts and one count of providing false information to medical personnel. Jurors found Dawkins not guilty of death of a child by parent, guardian or custodian by child abuse.

The charges stem from the New Year’s Day 2012 death of Kaiwann Connelly.

Police say the 3-year-old suffered a fracture skull and other injuries.

The boy’s father, James N. Maudlin, 21, of Martinsburg, is scheduled to stand trial in January.

— Compiled from the Associated Press

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