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Gangs, Guns, and Drugs Wreaking Havoc in Spring Hill

SPRING HILL – The Hernando County Sheriff's Office is currently investigating a shooting that took place in the vicinity of Berkeley Manor Blvd early Wednesday morning.

Deputies responded to Mermaid's Lounge just after 1:00 a.m., after receiving 911 calls about a male standing outside the establishment firing shots into the air. Shortly after the first 911 call, dispatchers received additional reports of gunfire on Berkeley Manor Blvd.

Numerous deputies responded to Mermaid's Lounge but none of the patrons were cooperative with investigators.

Deputies then turned their attention to residents on Berkeley Manor Blvd, where witnesses say they awoke to several gunshots but none of the witnesses could provide vehicle or suspect descriptions.

While deputies were still in the Mermaid's parking lot, two individuals returned to the scene and reported being victims of the assault. According to the victims, while in the parking lot, they overheard a male arguing with a group of people. That's when the suspect retrieved a firearm from his vehicle and began firing shots into the air. The victims say they fled the scene but while driving on Berkeley Manor Blvd, they noticed the suspect's vehicle in front of them. Moments later, the suspect slammed on his brakes, exited the vehicle, and fired several shots at their vehicle. The victims were able to leave the area and were uninjured in the shooting.

Officials say the investigation remains open at this time.

Shootings, stabbings, and other violent incidents are not uncommon around Mermaid's Lounge and the Berkeley Manor area but that's not the only place in Spring Hill that has residents are concerned for their safety.

In the last few weeks, R News has reported on several incidents involving drive-by shootings, carjackings, assaults, and robberies in the area of Northcliffe Blvd and Mariner Blvd. It's become so bad, according to some residents, that they're afraid to walk down the sidewalk or let their children play in the yard.

Residents who live in those hard-hit areas complain that the Sheriff's Office isn't doing enough to quell the rise in violent crime. They want to see more deputies on the street and patrolling neighborhoods, instead of just reacting when a crime occurs. Law Enforcement calls this Proactive Policing.

R News reached out to Sheriff Al Nienhuis several times regarding the rise in crime, but he has declined to comment.

Former NYPD Officer and United Airlines Pilot Joe Puglia blames the current leadership for failing to protect the community. "Several times during the Sheriff's tenure he has asked for and received budget increases based on the hiring of additional deputies. It is no secret that the agency has morale issues which leads to deputies seeking and retaining employment elsewhere. The end result of these internal issues has consequences on our county in that we do not have enough manpower to deal with the explosive growth. With that growth comes a criminal element that will exploit that weakness. We need to hire and retain deputies to be a proactive agency. You need to realize the most important asset of serving our community from a law enforcement standpoint is the men and women of this agency. They must feel good about coming to work here. Until we stop the revolving door of employees it will be next to impossible to tackle the increasing crime.


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