SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A South Dakota man accused of possession of child pornography might have escaped charges had it not been for an organization dedicated to protecting kids.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) tipped off the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) which led to the arrest of Rocky Hayes last month. The Sioux Falls man is charged with possession of child pornography.

On October 21st of last year, an agent with the DCI was assigned to check out a tip.

Following leads, the agent uncovered a 16 second clip of an adult male raping a child.
According to court documents the files were traced to an account on a cloud storage service belonging to Rocky Hayes.

The tip came from the NCMEC.

“We operate what is called the CyberTipline which is a reporting mechanism for the public, internet service provider anybody online to report any incidences of suspected child sexual abuse to our organization,” said Callahan Walsh with the NCMEC.

Walsh says they fielded 29 million tips in 2021. He knows all too well the dangers children face from predators. His brother Adam was kidnapped and killed in 1981. His dad went on to host the show America’s Most Wanted, co-found the center, and is still advocating for tougher laws.

Walsh says their expert’s vet and prioritize the millions of cyber tips they get each year. They work closely with local law enforcement to give them the best chance of making an arrest. In South Dakota, it’s usually the DCI.

“Working locally in South Dakota is something we’ve worked on for a very long time, we know we’ve got great agents out there, the marshals are fantastic out there as well often working our CyberTipline cases to make sure we are taking down the predators that live in our communities,” said Walsh.

Rocky Hayes is under arrest because someone cared enough to report something suspicious. Attorney General Marty Jackley says the public’s help is invaluable.

“Just encourage the public to be out there, be aware if there is something you think is out of the ordinary or important talk to your local law enforcement it can be helpful,” said Jackley.

Walsh agrees, the latest figures show the center alerted law enforcement to more than 42 hundred potential new child victims over 12 months. Their motto is “every child deserves a safe childhood.”