Big Brother here."

Despite the ACLU request, Arpaio and WESD officials said the equipment would remain in place and the pilot would continue for at least 90 days. After 90 days, Arpaio's office will draft a report to the school board and determine the next step.

Pending favorable results, Arpaio said he would like to expand the system to include more schools. "I would like to get this camera in every school, including elementary, high school, charter schools, etc.," he said. "Not only can it help locate missing kids, it can inform a school when a sex offender is present."

Although it may seem unlikely that a missing child would show up at a school, Campbell said it does happen. "Most missing children are abducted by noncustodial parents, so they take them to a new community and change their names. But they have to get them in school. They have to go on with their lives," he said. "Phoenix is kind of a transient community, so people will come to a large city like Phoenix, enroll the child at school, and it could be a missing kid from another state."

Campbell admits program expansion is critical to improving its effectiveness. "It's good to have at Royal Palm, but the chance of a missing child walking into one individual school is kind of slim," he said. "If you put it in all the schools, we're bound to find kids and [other] people that shouldn't be there."

If more schools participate, Campbell said they would determine their most effective camera placement. "They could put it where anybody that walks onto campus would walk by it, or could keep it in the office," he said.

The cameras cost between $3,000 and $5,000 apiece. Since most schools are already wired to a network, however, they need little more than the camera to participate, Campbell said. "The databases are housed and maintained at the Sheriff's Office, so schools don't need their own database or server. They just basically need the camera."

Should the program expand, Arpaio said he hopes to obtain grants or sponsors to help schools pay for the technology. "I know there's a budget problem in schools, so I will ask others to help so schools can afford to participate," he said. "If we can save one kid, I think it's worth it."

Justine Brown  |  Contributing Writer