A local police chief says law enforcement agencies across Monroe County now have unified policies and procedures in the battle against the heroin crisis and they're waiting for similar coordination among hospitals and treatment centers.
Officers in Gates are distributing information about local recovery resources to people they arrest and those who are fighting addiction.
"We haven't done that in the past because the drug epidemic in the past wasn't fatal,” said Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode. “People were addicted, but people weren't dying. This here is very deadly and when you're losing somebody every other day, it became our responsibility as a police department to engage in that educational part and offer that resource to somebody and not just tell them 'good luck' if they got arrested."
Police are also focusing on holding drug dealers accountable. On Wednesday, Gates Police arrested a man who they believe sold a fatal dose of heroin to a Gates resident who died in January.
Brian Saez, 26, of Rochester is charged with criminally negligent homicide and drug charges in connection with the death of 33 year old Sean Vaniderstine. It's the second time in less than a year that police in Gates have found evidence linking a specific alleged dealer to a client that had overdosed.
VanBrederode said that’s not always possible.
"A lot of it is good police work and a lot of it is just luck, how things play out and what kind of evidence is found at the scene. It's hit or miss whether you get lucky like this."
Saez may face additional homicide charges pending toxicology results. He had two prior felony drug convictions and is being held without bail at the Monroe County Jail.
Police identified a second person they say may have previously sold heroin to Vaniderstine. Darnell Tillmon, 34, of Greece was arrested for possession and sale of a controlled substance.
VanBrederode said two people died of apparent overdoses last week in Gates. Since the start of this year, there were 17 fatalities among the 112 overdoses reported across Monroe County.
Officers from police agencies in Monroe County are now filling out a form every time they encounter an opioid overdose. This part of an effort to collect real time data - allowing police agencies to search for patterns that lead to long term investigations.
County officials have been criticized in the past for not publicly releasing timely data about heroin overdoses and deaths. The county’s opioid task force is discussing how frequently their shared data will be made public. Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said it may be released monthly.