Law enforcement trying to get a handle on heroin overdose deaths

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As the number of heroin deaths in East Baton Rouge and surrounding areas grow, law enforcement officials are trying to get a handle on the issue.

The number of heroin deaths in Baton Rouge is up three times over last year. Officials say that a higher grade of product with a lower price tag is why. It is not just in the Capital City; the problem is soaring in places like Assumption Parish.

"This is a true epidemic that has not hit the radar yet. I've been predicting it for a couple of months," said Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack.

One suggestion to help is to raise the price of bonds put on suspected drug dealers. Waguespack says often times dealers are out of jail and back on the streets within hours.

"I don't think that's the answer even though we probably all set pretty high bonds on people who distribute heroin. I think the real answer is that up until several years ago the penalty for distributing heroin or possession with intent to distribute heroin in this state was life imprisonment without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence," said 19th Judicial District Court A Judge Mike Erwin.

In fact, Erwin has talked with East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark and the two plan on taking their thoughts to the Louisiana Legislature.

"He and I are going to try and get some legislation introduced in this year's legislative session to raise the penalty back to life imprisonment," said Erwin.

"Yes these are non-violent offenders but they are killing people every day on the street. We've got to toughen the laws in the state of Louisiana," said Waguespack.

The law was changed about 10 years ago, abolishing the life in prison sentencing.

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