Nov 16, 2011 9:52 PM by Ariel Wesler

Tracking sex offenders in your area

As Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County leaders fight to keep a sexually violent predator out of the city, we're taking a closer look tonight at how law enforcement officers keep track of sex offenders.

Hoping to keep 58-year-old Tibor Karsai out of the community, the Santa Maria city council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance last night clarifying Jessica's Law. It prohibits sex offenders from living within a 2000 foot radius of a school or park. According to the Megan's Law website, there are at least 390 in Santa Barbara County and 351 in San Luis Obispo County.

They are some of the most hated criminals in society and they live among us. We're talking about sex offenders.

"It could very well be a neighbor or somebody who lives down the road," said Sgt. Terry Flaa with the Santa Maria Police Department.

"Not in my backyard" is often the attitude with these types of cases, but longtime defense attorney Jim Voysey says painting all sex offenders as outcasts just makes matters worse.

"Would you rather have someone supervised in a location where we know where he is, where he's on a GPS, where people have 24 hour supervision of him, or would you rather have the person out on the street?"

There are four categories of sex offenders. Sexually violent predators are considered the most dangerous. That designation means they have committed one or more sex crimes, could be mentally ill and are ruled likely to re-offend. They must register every 90 days, but often, they can't find places to live.

"There are very few areas that are not within this 2000 foot buffer," Sgt. Flaa said. "Often times, [officers] are forced to place these offenders in specific areas."

"We have to give these folks a chance. The law does not allow us to lock people up forever because we think they might commit a crime in the future," Voysey said.

We checked in with Santa Maria to see if the city received any calls from the community upset about the possibility of Tibor Karsai moving here. Less than a handful have contacted them.

If you'd like to check for sex offenders in your area, just click here.

» There are multiple updates to this story. Please click here to get the latest information.

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