The number of child abuse-related incidents in Rock Hill has skyrocketed this year, but police don't think that number necessarily means more children are being abused.
There may just be more cases being reported, said Lt. Brad Redfearn, spokesman for the Rock Hill Police Department.
Last week, four people were charged with unlawful conduct toward a child in two separate Rock Hill incidents. That brings the total number of these cases to nearly 30 in 2011 so far.
There were six cases in all of 2010.
More than 3 million cases of child abuse are reported in the United States each year, according to Childhelp, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping child abuse and child neglect victims. Each report can include more than one child.
Several factors are contributing to the increased number of reported cases in Rock Hill, Redfearn said.
For decades, he said, child abuse has been a "taboo subject" no one seemed to talk about.
"Now there are so many groups and groups at schools that are taking a stand for the children," Redfearn said. "Whenever people see others doing that, they also want to take a stand for children and make sure they're brought up in the proper environment.
"Also, it is reported more in the news media, so people are seeing stories about it. It's reminding them of people they might know, people that might be their next-door neighbors, and they feel the need to call."
Redfearn also credits more trust of Rock Hill police for the increased reporting. "If you don't have the trust of the community, they will not call."
The police department has a detective dedicated to handling child and elder abuse cases.
Three Rock Hill parents were charged last week after police found six children living in deplorable conditions in a house shared by 11 people, police said.
Aaron Hart, 34, D'Aundra Hart, 26, and Twanna Roseboro, 33, were arrested Sept. 27 after police and the state Department of Social Services were called to investigate their run-down, bug-infested house. Children ages 7 months to 13 years were living inside.
The 11 people were living in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom Blanche Circle home that had missing doors, floorboards and holes in the walls, according to a Rock Hill police report.
Police found insects and piles of trash and clothes throughout the home, the report states. Three children were sharing one bed, and a crib was dirty. Police weren't able to find enough food to feed all six children, and there was no milk or formula for the two babies.
The home smelled of foul odors, the report states, and police determined the house was unsafe and not suitable for the children to live in.
Roseboro faces three counts of unlawful conduct toward a child; D'Aundra Hart faces two counts and Aaron Hart faces one count.
Wandering the streets
That same day, police say, a driver found two small children crossing a busy Rock Hill road while their mother slept.
Anna Puckett, 22, was charged with unlawful conduct toward a child after her two sons, ages 2 and 5, were spotted by a driver at Saluda Road and Heckle Boulevard, according to a Rock Hill police report.
The driver saw two boys trying to cross Heckle Boulevard around 10:40 a.m. She stopped, called police and waited with the children until officers arrived.
The children's mother told police she had fallen asleep inside her Saluda Road residence and didn't lock the door, the report states.
The boys left the apartment, police say, and walked about 200 yards through the nonresidential area to where they were found. They had already crossed the busy intersection once and were crossing back when the driver saw them.
Neither child was injured.
The Department of Social Services investigated both cases, and the children were released to family members.
Last month, teachers at two Rock Hill schools noticed suspicious injuries on students and alerted authorities of possible child abuse. Under state law, school employees must report any suspicions of child abuse.
No charges have resulted from those reports.
Earlier in the year, seven children were taken into emergency protective custody from a Rock Hill home after officers found them living in "deplorable conditions" and wearing filthy clothing in a house that "smelled of feces and urine," according to a police report.
The parents - Sabrina Boone, 32, and Robert Tolf, 47 - were charged with seven counts each of unlawful conduct toward a child.
People who suspect a child is being abused should report it to police, spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus said.
"The Department of Social Services relies on the community and our partners in the community to help keep children safe."
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