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Sheriff Deploys China-Invested Spy Cameras, Orders BOCC to Remain Silent

BROOKSVILLE – You might have noticed several small black cameras situated in various locations along Hernando County roadways and wondered what they were being used for. Unfortunately, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis doesn't want you to know, and he's ordered his office and all elected officials to remain silent.

After fielding numerous inquiries from concerned citizens, R News delved into the origins of the camera, only to encounter dead ends at every turn. Eventually, we received an anonymous tip from a source inside the Hernando County government who said Sheriff Al Nienhuis purchased the Flock system and deployed their cameras to spy on passing motorists. That source also said Nienhuis told them in an email to "keep their mouths shut." That email was sent to numerous high-ranking law enforcement and County government officials.

Flock is a camera system that many law enforcement agencies around the country use to help fight crime, but it goes far beyond reading license plates. Law Enforcement can perform unlimited video and still-shot surveillance and collect any data they choose. Data collected by an agency is placed in a central database that every agency around the country has access to, including the FBI. And that has citizens wondering if we're one step closer to a complete Orwellian society.

R News made several failed attempts to obtain an official statement or document regarding the Flock cameras but neither the Sheriff nor any County official will respond. The only document the Sheriff's Office provided was the email sent to fifteen recipients on March 8, 2024, ordering them to secrecy. Unfortunately, the entire email is redacted due to Nienhuis' disclaimer that reads, "EXEMPT FROM PUBLIC RECORD - FSS 119.071(2)(d)"

List of Recipients:

From: Nienhuis, Al

To: Elizabeth Narverud ,

'JerryC@co.hernando.fl.us' , Brian Hawkins

, John Allocco (JAllocco@co.hernando.fl.us)

, Steve Champion

Cc: Jeffrey Rogers JRogers@co.hernando.fl.us

APiarulli@hernandosheriff.org, JKraft@hernandosheriff.org,

abatchelder@hernandosheriff.org, sklucznik@hernandosheriff.org,

KHayden@hernandosheriff.org, troyal@hernandosheriff.org,

PLakin@hernandosheriff.org, tstaff@hernandosheriff.org,

JCameronIV@hernandosheriff.org

During our investigation, R News discovered a more disturbing fact about Flock that may pose a national security risk. According to our research, Jengwei Investments, a China-based company that owns several software and data mining companies, is one of Flock's investors, and that is a red flag to American citizens who believe China is our greatest enemy.

The U.S. government is currently on high alert due to the ongoing border crisis, with thousands of Chinese immigrants reported to have illegally crossed into the United States from Mexico. According to a recent statement by the FBI, "The greatest long-term threat to our nation's information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality, is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China."

Last week, R News broke the news of a cyberattack that Hernando County government suffered at the hands of possible Ransomware hackers. Officials refused to comment until pressure from multiple media outlets forced them to acknowledge the breach and that the FBI is involved in the investigation. Officials will not say whether private information has been compromised or if data is being held for ransom. It's unknown if the breach has anything to do with the implementation of the Flock system.

Brooksville resident and Former NYPD Officer Joe Puglia says, "On its face, the lack of transparency and great lengths Al Nienhuis has gone through to keep this away from the public is frankly shocking. The fact that he can manipulate the entire BOCC, if that is the case, through a totally redacted email, is repugnant. There seems to be no voice of reason representing the constituents of Hernando County. You cannot have a government acting under the cover of darkness."

Over the last year, the BOCC approved Nienhuis' $350 million "Master Plan" to completely rebuild the Sheriff's Office and detention center, implemented a $13 million encryption system to prevent the public from hearing dispatch radio traffic, and recently voted to give County Administrator Jeff Rogers a $55,000 raise. To pay for it all, the BOCC will force the voters to approve a "whole cent" sales tax this November or face higher property taxes. Despite overwhelming pleas from the community to implement Body Worn Cameras with Hernando County Sheriff's Deputies, at a minuscule cost of just $300,000 per year, Nienhuis says he can't afford it.

It should be noted that Commissioner Steve Champion is the only elected official to challenge tax increases and overspending.

R News will continue to follow any new developments.

 

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