By Rick Ritter

BEL AIR, Md. (WJZ)– Deaths continue to rise in Harford County as the U.S. is in the midst of a deepening opioid crisis.

The epidemic is far worse than just a year ago. By the end of 2017, more people will die of a heroin or opioid overdose in Harford County than ever before.

“It’s very frustrating to me to know this stuff is going on and numbers are still on the rise,” said Bel Air Police Chief Charles Moore.

The county has already seen more than 400 overdoses from heroin or other opioids this year. A staggering 79 are fatal, up more than 30 deaths from the same time last year.

Just weeks ago WJZ‘s Vic Carter was on the front line with Harford County’s Elite Opioid Task Force as they took some of the most lethal dealers off the streets.

RELATED: ‘You’re Killing Our Citizens’; WJZ Is There As Elite Task Force Takes Down Suspected Drug Dealer

Even the three-mile town of Bel Air is feeling the effects of the crisis.

“Not only the person overdosed is effected by this, we see everyone close to that individual is effected,” Chief Moore said. “I feel it’s my responsibility to take some action and have an impact.”

While the department is assisting the sheriff office’s task force, it’s now focused on a program to get addicts on a road to recovery by having officers and professionals following up with those who overdose or even get locked up.

“It’s not just drugs and not just impacting families, it’s impacting business, employment,” Bel Air Mayor Susan Burdette said.

“We want to send a message up in Harford County, you’re dealing drugs to our citizens, you’re killing our citizens with drugs,” said Captain Lee Dunbar of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. “We will come down here and lock you up.”

Just weeks ago, President Donald Trump declared the crisis a public health emergency, a move that drew much criticism, since declaring it a national emergency.

According to new figures from the White House, the true cost of the country’s drug crisis in 2015 was $504 billion.

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