Pennington County resident John Rolfe repeatedly violated a young girl for a number of years. Adding to the trauma, he took pictures and recorded videos. William Wray, a former Pennington County Sheriff's Deputy, did the same thing. Both were caught, thanks to a relatively new local task force called ICAC or Internet Crimes Against Children.
"It has been revolutionary because the majority of the cases that we're identifying through ICAC had never been identified before," Pennington County Chief Deputy State's Attorney Lara Roetzel said. Roetzel was one of the attorneys who prosecuted Rolfe and Wray. The State won the case.
"Previously we would only get a trickle of cases," Roetzel said. Since the creation of the local ICAC team in late 2010, law enforcement is able to dedicate the time and resources to find, and ultimately stop child pornographers.
"We do proactive searches through various files and networks on the Internet," Special Agent Brent Gromer with the Department of Criminal Investigation said. According to Gromer, these proactive searches, which involve locating suspects using IP addresses, resulted in 85 arrests in western South Dakota last year. "We'll go out and get search warrants and seize the computers of people who we've identified as sharing child porn," Gromer said.
From there, a forensic specialist analyzes the evidence and then ICAC builds a case.
Gromer says most of their investigations do not involve local children. "The vast majority of the images we see are truly the images that are traded," He said. Many times those images are traded across state lines. Since each state has at least one ICAC, investigators are able to easily forward the information.
While an estimated 5 million images of children being sexually exploited and tortured still exist on the web, ICAC is making headway, one case at a time.
"We really feel like we're being proactive. If we're catching these people when they're just looking at it, hopefully we're cutting off some of those who would have escalated and chosen victims," Roetzel said.
The team also teaches classes to schools and church groups about Internet safety.