ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Since January 1, 2018, 112 overdoses have been recorded in Monroe County — 17 of which were fatal. That information was collected by the county's new Heroin Task Force, who plan to use the data to help combat the epidemic.
A press conference was held Wednesday to formally announce the Task Force, and to explain how it will operate moving forward.
"Let me be clear, we want to send the suppliers bringing this poison into our community to prison. Not the addicts," said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley.
The Monroe County Heroin Task Force believes that working with the County's Crime Analysis Center, and collecting overdose related data will help the region in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
"We need fresh intelligence, gathered within 24 hours of an overdose, whether it be fatal or non-fatal. Stale intelligence is no intelligence at all," said Doorley.
"At 0800, 8 o'clock in the morning, we're having an intelligence briefing provided by MCCAC, that's telling the incident commander what occurred in the last 24-48 hours," said Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter.
The county started back in May looking at how other municipalities were gathering information. After that, it created its own comprehensive form to be completed by officers responding to any overdoses, fatal or non-fatal, within 24 hours.
"Each law enforcement partner here today uses that form and MCCAC compiles that information in order to collect real-time data and intelligence," said Doorley.
"You know every day they're getting a different task based on what the intelligence is telling them. And that's the beautiful part about it, it's totally flexible and they're 100% dedicated to opioids right now," said Baxter.
Additionally the data can help the Task Force track trends among addicts and provide prevention and education in areas that are being hit hardest by the epidemic.
"You see a lot of the information coming out of this actual intelligence, this command post, and being assigned to non-government agencies that can do work much better than us, like get deeper into communities, do crime prevention related stuff, get information to families members that are suffering when their children are going through an addiction process," said Baxter.
And it's not just providing help for addicts. The goal is to use the data to supplement long term investigations, and ultimately gather enough evidence to successfully prosecute heroin dealers.
"In New York, the law is very clear that sale resulting in death does not equal a homicide charge, you need something else, you need those aggravating circumstances," said Doorley.
Currently, it must be proven that a dealer knowingly supplied a product that was known to cause overdose or death. Officials say the intelligence could help prove that dealers knowingly supplied heroin laced with potent, synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
"It was clear to me, as District Attorney, I wanted the strongest evidence possible against these drug dealers, and needless to say there would be no plea deals offered to drug dealers in our communities," said Doorley.
The hope is that by debriefing non-fatal overdoses within 24 hours they can learn the names of those dealers that are supplying tainted opioids.