The Nassau County Police Department Monday launched a heroin task force to arrest more drug dealers, which county officials said is key to conquering Nassau's heroin crisis.
Citing a rising number of heroin overdoses, the department shifted eight detectives to its Narcotics Unit. Four detectives from the precinct squads and four detectives from the Bureau of Special Operations began working in Narcotics Monday and will be tasked with gathering intelligence on heroin dealers and making arrests, acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said.
Fatal heroin overdoses have doubled -- from 18 to 36 -- in Nassau through Aug. 31 from the same period last year, according to police department statistics.
The task force is, in part, a result of a memorandum of agreement between the department and the Police Benevolent Association, allowing four special operations detectives to "temporarily" move to Narcotics.
The department began six months ago sending detectives to all overdoses in the county to collect intelligence on dealers, but more detectives were needed, Krumpter said.
"We needed some additional resources because of the increase we've seen in overdoses," Krumpter said in an interview Monday. "This is about targeting the drug dealers."
County Executive Edward Mangano said the task force is within the police department's budget and would not result in any additional costs, except, perhaps, for overtime.
"Heroin is a drug that not only hurts the users, it destroys families," said Mangano, adding that the county will use all of its resources to take on the problem, "even if it means money on [police] overtime."
Krumpter declined to define the task force's success by a number of arrests. "The real measure of success here is working towards decreasing the number of overdoses," he said.
PBA president James Carver called the task force "an important step in the right direction" and said: "You can have as many meetings as you want, but this is us putting boots on the ground."
Nassau acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement Monday: "The fight against heroin requires commitment from law enforcement at every level and we look forward to continued collaboration with NCPD Narcotics and the Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force to combat this epidemic."
Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, a Republican who is running against Singas, a Democrat, for district attorney, recently called for "a county task force in the police department to battle this scourge," and specifically called for more detectives and police concentrated on the effort. Murray, who has been endorsed by all of the county's police unions, said she only became aware of the creation of the police department's task force Monday.
"I'm really pleased Nassau County has taken up my recommendation," Murray said. "It's past time, quite frankly, that we have a task force at the police department. We need to throw as many resources at this crisis as possible."
Asked whether the task force was a political creation, Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Mangano, also a Republican, said: "This has nothing to do with politics at all." With Paul LaRocco