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Sheriff Touts ATV Enforcement Operation While Ignoring Crime-Plagued Neighborhoods

HERNANDO – It's an election year, which means incumbents will be spending a lot of time gloating about their accomplishments, hoping voters will grant them "four more years" in their respective offices. Until last month, Sheriff Al Nienhuis was running unopposed. However, now that he has an opponent, Nienhuis is scrambling to highlight his achievements. Nonetheless, some residents argue that Nienhuis' priorities are not aligned with his constituents.

Today, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) highlighted their efforts to stop ATVs from riding in the sparsely populated areas of Royal Highlands. Officials say they received complaints from residents living in the mostly unpaved neighborhoods, so they increased patrols in the area to stop the illegal operation of ATVs. The Sheriff's Office also utilized UTVs, drones, and the air unit on multiple occasions to crack down on ATV operators in the area of Whitehurst Pond. But residents living in high-crime areas say Nienhuis has ignored their pleas for proactive patrols, citing they don't have enough resources to spare.

The increase in shootings, stabbings, carjackings, home invasions, and various property crimes have residents on edge in Spring Hill, but Nienhuis says there is nothing that can be done without adding more boots on the ground – one of the reasons he claims body cameras are not in his budget. Despite that defense, year after year Nienhuis demands millions in budget increases to pay for new deputies, yet the number never seems to change. So where is the money going?

Nienhuis has spent millions on the latest crime-fighting technology like, dash cameras for patrol cars, the Flock "spy camera" system, a Robot K-9, drones, a multi-million dollar radio encryption system, and many other high-tech investigative tools. Those are very progressive advancements, but residents say it isn't helping to quell the growing crime in their neighborhoods. They simply want more deputies, and they want those deputies to wear body cameras.

Those who responded to the Sheriff's Facebook post weren't very happy with what they say is a waste of resources. Here is a sampling of responses:

Thomas Cline - I stand behind the HCSO on a lot of what they do but this is disappointing to me. They're harmlessly riding around and having fun. At least they're not out vandalizing or robbing banks or committing actual crimes.

Steve Brazeau - Pathetic waste of resources. Shouldn't your officers be on a golf cart since UTVs are illegal to drive on unimproved roads?

Steve Owohnsen - And yet they wonder why kids turn to drugs! Can't have real fun so let's get high and party. Good job guys. Pitiful that our tax money is being wasted while people are dying because of drugs.

Shane Schuler - You are using an off-road vehicle on the road to stop other off-road vehicles from being on the road... Yeah, this use of my tax dollars doesn't sit very well with me. I think there are much more important things the deputies could be doing.

Laura Gallahan - Vote this sheriff out! Go catch real criminals. Ridiculous. I'd vote for a pile of crap before I put a check next to Al's name. Spend more time getting body cameras and holding your deputies accountable than messing with kids.

There are conflicting Florida Statutes regarding the use of ATVs on public roadways. HCSO cited Florida Statute 316.2074 (5) in their post, which reads: Except as provided in this section, an all-terrain vehicle may not be operated upon the public roads, streets, or highways of this state, except as otherwise permitted by the managing state or federal agency. But Florida Statute 316.2123 (1) reads: The operation of an ATV, as defined in s. 317.0003, upon the public roads or streets of this state is prohibited, except that an ATV may be operated during the daytime on an unpaved roadway where the posted speed limit is less than 35 miles per hour.

It should be noted that candidate for Sheriff Joe Puglia has vowed to implement body cameras, add more deputies, and place more deputies in high-crime areas of Hernando County.


Reader Comments(1)

Shawn1402 writes:

The same sheriff who earlier this year put the best interests of an accused child pornographer ahead of the public safety of the thousands of children in Hernando County

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