Editorial

Sexual predators shouldn’t be released as transients

Local case shows policy need in light of public opposition

letters@thetribunenews.comJanuary 28, 2013 

Tibor Karsai

No community wants Tibor Karsai, and given his record, that’s no surprise.

Karsai, 59, is a twice-convicted rapist who has spent most of his adult life behind bars — most recently at a state mental hospital that treats sexually violent predators.

Now that Karsai is due for release, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have been at odds over where he should live.

Santa Barbara County has argued that, because his last known address was in Morro Bay, Karsai should be released to San Luis Obispo County. Officials in San Luis Obispo County have countered that Karsai spent little time here, committed his crimes elsewhere and has no local family ties.

And here’s where the case gets really outrageous: Because he has nowhere to go, Karsai could be released in Santa Barbara County as a transient.

That was the order of a Placer County judge, who has jurisdiction because Karsai committed one of the rapes there.

The judge ordered the release with reluctance, noting that “placement as a transient does little to serve the interests of public safety.”

But because of the “extraordinary length of time” it has taken to find Karsai a home — and the “lack of any hope of obtaining a future suitable placement” — the judge felt compelled to order Karsai’s release.

It’s hard to imagine a worse outcome. Allowing a newly released sexually violent predator to wander the streets, with no permanent address where law enforcement can find him, is absurd.

So where should he go?

Initially, Santa Maria seemed the logical placement. His family, including his mother, is located there, though she withdrew her offer to house him because of intense public opposition.

We can understand why Santa Maria residents would not want Karsai as a neighbor, but under terms of his conditional release, at least he would have been subject to unannounced home visits, drug testing, regularly scheduled mental health assessments and electronic monitoring of travel and curfew restrictions.

If Karsai is released as a transient, it’s unclear how those conditions would be applied. Without a permanent home, for example, how could there be home visits?

Will he be spending one night in Santa Maria, the next in Guadalupe, the night after that in Nipomo, perhaps?

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office is fighting the order to release Karsai as a transient. Santa Barbara is trying to get the case sent back to Placer County, in hopes that the judge there will allow additional time to find Karsai a permanent home.

That’s the logical, short-term solution.

Over the long-term, though, we believe the state must come up with a better way to handle such cases.

While it makes sense to place sexually violent predators in the communities where they have established ties — particularly when family members are willing to offer support — that may not be feasible. In such cases, there must be alternatives ready to go, whether it’s a mobile home on state-owned land or some other secure facility that’s been pre-approved to house sexually violent predators.

We strongly urge the state to review its policies and practices on placement of sexually violent predators — releasing them back into our communities as transients should never be a solution.

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