Domestic-violence homicide remain’s Maine’s deadliest crime, accounting for about half of the state’s murders every year.

This is nothing new. We have been reading the same statistics for two decades now, and although we know much more about the dynamics of these toxic relationships, and great strides have been taken to counsel and protect victims, some things don’t change.

It is a reliable prediction that, baring some dramatic change, about a dozen Mainers, almost exclusively women and children, will be murdered by a member of their household in 2012. And after they die, people who knew them will wonder how they missed the signs that something tragic might happen.

Some of these murders will be committed by people known to law enforcement and already may be involved in civil or criminal court proceedings.

In the waning days of 2011, we should all ask what needs to change so we can avoid these tragedies.

A panel of law enforcement officers have looked into one recent case, and it provides some insight into what those changes should be.

The panelists researched the murder of a mother and two children by and suicide of Steven Lake of Dexter last June, and found ways that the family could have been made safer.

Lake was subject to a protection-from-abuse order and had been ordered to surrender his collection of firearms, but he violated the order and had possession of two guns at the time of the killings.

The panel of experts suggested ways in which violations of protection orders should be treated. And they advocate the creation of a new felony crime for someone who keeps or tries to acquire a gun when he is under a protection from abuse order.

Those changes, however, come into play only after an abuser is caught in violation, which in some cases would be too late.

A more promising suggestion was the use of Global Positioning System technology to track the subjects of protection orders and provide an instant notice if they violate them. This would not a perfect solution, but it has the potential of giving police a fighting chance to intervene before it’s too late.

Domestic-violence homicide is an old problem for Maine, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to solve. If more can be done to prevent these crimes, we should be ready to do it.

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