Governor Jay Nixon is being urged to release money for the state’s cyber crimes task forces, but his administration’s budget director said it isn’t likely that will happen in the current fiscal climate.

Emily van Schenkhof

Emily van Schenkhof

Among the dollars being held back in the state budget by the governor are 1.5-million that would support the state’s cyber crimes task forces – units who often investigate people committing or trying to commit sex crimes involving children.

“We are just, at this point, pleading with the governor to please release those funds. It is a matter of life and death for some children in this state,” said Missouri KidsFirst Deputy Director Emily van Schenkhof.

“This will be a catastrophic blow to the cyber crimes task forces of Missouri if these funds are not released. It will shut down the task forces throughout the state of Missouri. Perhaps a few of them will be able to limp along with limited capacity,” van Schenkhof said.

Van Schenkhof said the work of these task forces is a vital protection to Missouri children.

“They bring in a large number of predators and they get really good sentences on them,” said van Schenkhof. “More importantly they’re removing children often times from really bad situations. Cases where little kids are being molested on a repeated basis and those images are being sent out all throughout the state, all throughout the country, those images end up all throughout the world.”

Van Schenkhof said what she’s been told by the Nixon administration has not been encouraging, however.

Nixon budget director Linda Luebbering told Missourinet the updated revenue estimate for the current fiscal year, agreed to by the governor and legislative budget leaders, is lower than earlier projections. She said additional budget restrictions might be needed to keep the budget balanced. For any money currently being restricted to be released would likely take a significant improvement in the budget situation.

Van Schenkhof called the assessment “deeply disappointing.”

She said if cyber crimes task forces are shut down, many counties will be left unable to pursue cases that might be referred to them by authorities in other states.

“What happens when they don’t have the resources to do it and they don’t know how to track these cases down, they don’t know how to investigate them, nothing happens and children remain in really bad situations?” she asked. “That’s not acceptable. I believe that we must find a way to make sure that this revenue gets out to our counties. Our children need it, our counties need it, and I just can’t imagine that we can’t find $1.5-million in our budget for public safety and for our children.”

Additionally, she is concerned that task forces that have to shut down wouldn’t be reformed even if money becomes available at a later date.

“The reality is that many counties won’t reapply for these funds because they will feel like it’s so precarious that they have to lay off people, transfer people, it creates chaos for our counties,” said van Schenkhof.