JEFF AREY MUG

Saline County Judge Jeff Arey

Saline County Judge Jeff Arey issued an Executive Order on Thursday under his emergency powers that requires juveniles to stay at home 24 hours a day unless accompanied by a parent, working, seeing a doctor or buying necessary food or supplies.

“I want to make crystal clear, that the objective of this order is to save lives," Arey said in a press release. “Our objective is absolutely not to arrest a bunch of teenagers or their parents. We expect officers and deputies to use their best judgement in breaking up groups, sending kids home, and only issuing citations or making arrests as a last resort.”

The order goes into effect Monday, and covers all unincorporated areas of Saline County, but parents and guardians are urged to begin complying immediately.

Arey’s order is similar to the proclamation issued by Benton Mayor Tom Farmer — also issued Thursday.

“I have been discussing this issue with other local officials, particularly Mayor Farmer and Circuit Judge Robert Herzfeld, who presides over juvenile court, for some time,” Arey said. “I would strongly prefer that folks take this action on their own, but unfortunately that hasn’t been happening. We have been increasingly concerned about asymptomatic teens passing COVID-19 to one another and endangering themselves, their families and our community. Frankly, from what we’ve seen, it appears that the grandparents of teens may be at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19. We have asked and pleaded and suggested for parents to keep kids home, but we understand this is easier said than done. Judge Herzfeld suggested that issuing this order will, among other things, make it easier to do what they need to do to protect their families.”

Arey also emphasized that residents should not call 911 just because they see a juvenile jogging down an exercise path.

“Please, no,” Arey said. “We have to use common sense, but should they think about calling the nonemergency number if there is a group of teens hanging all over each other down by the river or roaming around East End unsupervised? Hopefully that won’t be happening, but yes, a few words from a deputy telling them ‘to get on home’ might literally save lives.”

The order will remain in effect until further notice, but for no longer than 120 days without action taken by the Saline County Quorum Court. If a juvenile is found in violation of the order, the Saline County Sheriff’s Department will inform the parent or guardian of the violation and order the juvenile to return home or come into compliance with the order immediately. Citations will only be issued for other criminal offenses committed within the officer’s presence such as obstructing governmental operations, loitering or disorderly conduct. A citation can also be issued if the parent, guardian or juvenile fails to obey the stay-at-home order.

“This may not be a popular decision with some folks, and we understand that, but we don’t get elected to be popular, we were chosen to serve and to make the tough calls,” Arey said.

For more informationm contact Arey at jeff.arey@salinecounty.org or 501-303-5640.

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