Fatal heroin overdoses in Nassau County through Aug. 31 have doubled compared to the same period last year, rising from 18 to 36, according to law enforcement data released Tuesday by Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and police union officials.
The death totals are based on data compiled by the Nassau County Police Department's asset forfeiture and intelligence section, and have not been certified by the county medical examiner, authorities said.
A separate tally of fatal heroin overdoses provided to Newsday by the medical examiner's office Tuesday showed 21 overdoses in Nassau through April 15, the last date available for certified cause-of-death data. In 2014, 53 people died from heroin overdoses, according to the medical examiner's office.
Newsday could not independently verify either data set.
Murray, a Republican, is running for Nassau County district attorney, a seat occupied by her expected opponent in November, Democrat Madeline Singas.
At a news conference on the steps of Hempstead Town Hall, Murray provided the higher fatal overdose numbers and called for the creation of a task force to combat heroin abuse on Long Island, which Singas said already exists.
Murray was flanked by Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James Carver, Nassau detectives union President Glenn Ciccone, and Nassau County Superior Officers Association vice president Kevin Black.
Together they called for the placement of more officers and detectives on the streets as part of a task force to pursue heroin dealers, disrupt home delivery of the narcotic, and tackle other heroin-related problems.
Singas issued a statement in response saying the existing Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force already serves those purposes.
Singas, who co-chairs the task force alongside County Executive Edward Mangano, said it has about 300 members, including Nassau police, prosecutors, and treatment experts. The group meets monthly, with about 50 members present each time, she said.
Mike Deery, Town of Hempstead spokesman, said after Murray's news conference that the existing task force "has no teeth" and is not focused enough on enforcement, which is why Murray is calling for the new group.