Criminals Charged With Violating Stay At Home Order

Committing crimes are ‘non-essential activities’, deputies say

Deputies are adding a new charge to arrest warrants of criminals caught breaking the law under the stay-at-home order in Harnett County.

Investigators in the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office have added the charge of violating an executive order to at least three or four cases, the most recent coming Friday, when 46-year-old Gary Long of Sanford was arrested on warrants from Lee County.

Long was accused of stealing three cases of beer from a local convenience store, which is misdemeanor larceny, according to HCSO Maj. Aaron Meredith.

“He was wanted for stealing three 24-packs of beer, Bud Light beers, from the Circle K Fuel on North Carolina 87 in Cameron,” Meredith said. “At least three people have been charged with violating the executive order because stealing is not essential.”

“Essential activities” are allowed under North Carolina’s current stay-at-home order. The activities do not include criminal violations.

The charges are something new the sheriff’s office is trying in an attempt to make the streets safer, but there’s a chance the charges may not stick.

“As far as what will come of it, we don’t know because we’re just now charging people with this,” Meredith said. “It wasn’t that they were being charged initially for violating the executive order, it was another charge. He’s doing non-essential things, so we’re charging them.”

“They’re out stealing when they should be staying at home,” Meredith said. “And we’re going to continue to charge everybody. Our investigators are charging them and I agree with that. They’re out doing bad things, they’re out being criminals in addition to violating the order, so you could see more of those charged.”

Meredith wants to assure citizens who might get stopped for a traffic violation, they likely won’t be subject to the charge, even if they’re not going to work or other essential activities. He admits if the deputy making the stop discovers the resident is not, they will likely get a verbal warning.

“We’re not going to charge anybody with the charge if they’re just out driving,” Meredith said. “Along with the traffic citation they may get a warning to go home. The only time we’ll use it is if someone is out committing a crime. Simply because, thievery and stealing are not essential activities during this crisis.”

Under the latest executive order, violations are considered class 2 misdemeanors and can result in a fine or possible jail time.

-Dunn Daily Record