NEW ORLEANS Sometimes the sadness can get too heavy for Tamara Jackson who is a victim advocate in the city known as the nation’s capital of murder.
Jackson stated, “I just need to turn off my emotions.” Jackson said, “If you don’t, I’ll be emotionally drained. I have to make me valuable and useful for my next family.”
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This year, New Orleans has seen more than 50 deaths. Three people were killed in a car chase, and shootout. A 15-year old girl was killed when she fell through a wall at a sleepover. Two siblings were shot at an intersection less that a year after their older brother was also killed.
Jackson is a coroner’s assistant and is often called to the scene of any homicide. She assists victims’ families and comforts them.
She said, “Their grief needs to be addressed.” “I’m a therapist. “So even though I respond, I can also provide crisis intervention when it is most needed.”
Jackson was almost 23 years old when her father was killed. She knows what it is like to be in their shoes.
She said, “I was one those people.” “So I hate saying I understand because every situation can be different… But I do have some experience of how it can be because I felt that way.”
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In the last few years, New Orleans has seen a dramatic rise in violent crime. In September, New Orleans had most homicides per head of all major U.S. cities. It briefly earned the title of “America’s murder capital”. New Orleans had just 119 homicides in the past three years. This was nearly 50 years ago.
Jackson stated that “we don’t have as many people now as we did pre-Katrina” and added, “We still experience tragedy after tragedy.” Jackson stated, “Violence continues to be perpetuated and people are still dying.”
Jackson stated that grieving families might have questions about the crime, which police are unable to answer. Jackson said that she sees her job in bridging the divide between two crucial partners in the investigation.
She said, “I can gather information about the families and share it with law enforcement and vice versa.” The family is key allies as they know the victim, good or not.
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Jackson is also the executive Director of Silence is Violence. This community organization was founded in 2007 to promote safety, youth engagement and safety in New Orleans.
She stated that she has developed valuable relationships with law enforcement she did not have 16 years ago. She also has to deal with bureaucratic obstacles when she works with the government. Jackson stated that Jackson was unable to continue her brief time with the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which is part of the mayor’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
She stated that “the community will be there first before the law enforcement.” “So, we must build stronger communities and healthier communities.”
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Jackson is not required to respond to homicides on a good day. Those days are becoming fewer and further apart.
She said, “I’ve seen days when we had six [homicides] and all of our crews are moving the exact same people from one scene the next.” “We don’t have enough people to dispatch and have a new crew respond.
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Jackson follows a routine after facing a difficult situation. Jackson will sit in her SUV and take a moment to breathe before saying a prayer.
Jackson realizes that Jackson has to wait for another family, so she puts her car in drive once she is fully charged and ready to go. She then heads to the next crime scene to reunite with the coroner or homicide detective.
They’ll do it again.