ROCK HILL, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A former Rock Hill Police officer and school resource officer was fired after allegations of possession of child sex abuse material.
The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force led the investigation that caused Daniel Shealy to be terminated from his position.
“We have arrested two police officers, doctors and lawyers. This doesn’t know any socioeconomic bounds or race,” says South Carolina’s Chief Criminal Investigator Kevin Atkinson, a member of the task force.
He says as the internet expands, so do internet sex crimes.
“Criminals like the path of least resistance,” Atkinson described. “So instead of having to go to a bus stop like the old days and snatch your kid up, you can get what you want over the phone without ever leaving your house. I guess when you say, ‘stranger danger,’ we don’t have that anymore. Anybody can be responsible.
“We’re arresting people in their eighties,” he continued. “And we’ve got people in their young teens that are just producing this content. They’re also watching and downloading, doing very bad files.”
The task force’s most recent case involves Shealy. Investigators say he possessed and distributed child pornography.
Shealy is facing multiple charges of sexual exploitation of a minor. He was from the police department on Sept. 28.
Atkinson says South Carolina internet sex crimes investigators arrest nearly 300 perpetrators a year.
“I don’t want to have to break a record, but we seem to keep hitting the high watermark,” Atkinson said.
He noted the task force has seen a 35 percent increase in National Center for Exploited and Missing Children each year.
“In 2018, we got about 1,800 cyber tips,” Atkinson said. “Last year we got 7,600. And this year, we’re on pace for over 10,000.”
They’re asking for more people to handle these cases. He believes it will be hard to tackle all the cases in a timely manner until the manpower request is granted.
One of their biggest issues is child pornography from an unexpected source — children themselves.
“It’s insane how many self-production cases we’re getting and also the cases where people are trying to extort juveniles, where they get a juvenile to self-produce maybe,” he said. “And they say ‘Hey, you better give me $10,000, $5,000 or I’m going to send all these pictures to your family. We probably don’t go a day where we don’t get a report on that yet.”
The task force doesn’t only grab the bad guys; they offer internet safety education as well. Atkinson’s first tip: Be present.
“So many people use the phone as a babysitter now, whereas, I’m 46 and my generation, they pop in front of the television, you watch cartoons,” he described. “Now they have instant access to the internet. What I’m seeing is very young children have their own Cash App, they have their own Instagram, they have their own TikTok, they have their own tablet, they have their cellphone and people aren’t monitoring what they’re doing. So being present and having those tough conversations.”