New Pilot Program to Nab Sex Offenders Being Tested in Phoenix Schools

We are a nation focused on eradicating sex offenders from the lives of our children. They are in and near our schools, at the local parks, living next door, and even in some of our churches.

The Phoenix schools, as well as their teachers, administrators and parents, want to protect their children from sexual attacks and abductions. Together with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office, the Phoenix schools have devised a pilot project to apprehend sex offenders and alleged abductors before they can do harm.

The plan of the schools in Phoenix is simple. Two cameras are now located outside the school office of the Royal Palm Middle School, scanning the faces of people who enter. Each camera uses face-scanning technology, designed to compare the scanned faces with the state and national databases of registered sex offenders, missing children, and alleged abductors. If a match is found, a police officer is dispatched to the Phoenix school.

Law enforcement and the schools in Phoenix are hopeful that the project succeeds, knowing that anything that protects the children is worth any cost and inconvenience.

Civil libertarians, however, are concerned with privacy more than protecting the children from attack or abduction. They are vocally opposing the project, citing the potential issues of privacy violations.

Others say the technology is unproven and not reliable. According to Chengjun Liu, professor and researcher of facial recognition technology at New Jersey Institute of Technology, the technology is very promising but currently is not foolproof. Many variables, such as lighting, shadows and facial expression, can affect its accuracy.

Ken Kaplan, engineering director at Hummingbird’s Phoenix location and who provided the equipment and software for the Phoenix schools pilot, disagrees. He is confident that facial scanning technology can be used to accurately compare scanned faces with mug shots and snapshots stored in the databases. He believes that false positives are rare situations.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for instituting chain gangs and issuing pink underwear to county inmates, believes that if it only catches one sex offender at a school, then it is worth it. Protecting children from attack and abduction – or worse – takes priority.

If the pilot project is successful, both law enforcement and schools educators hope to expand it. The Phoenix schools want the technology in all of their schools. According to Arizona Schools Superintendent Tom Horne, the Phoenix schools may very well get their wish. If the project succeeds, he plans to seek funding for cameras for all schools within the state.