VIDEO: Amid surging homicides in New Orleans, this woman is often one of the first on scene

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NEW ORLEANS – Sometimes the sadness gets too heavy for Tamara Jackson, a victim advocate in a city that’s been called the nation’s murder capital.

“I just have to turn off my feelings,” Jackson said. “If you don’t, I’ll be emotionally drained, and I have to make myself valuable and useful for the next family.”

More than 50 people have been killed in New Orleans so far this year. Three died in a car chase and shootout. A 15-year-old girl was shot through a wall during a sleepover. Two siblings were gunned down at an intersection less than a year after their younger brother was also shot to death.

Jackson, who works for the coroner’s office, is dispatched to as many homicide scenes as she can get to in an effort to help comfort victims’ loved ones and guide them through the legal system.

“Their grief and trauma needs to be addressed. And I’m a therapist. So even though I’m responding, I’m also able to do that crisis intervention at the time when it’s most needed,” she explained.

Jackson, who became a victim after her father was murdered almost 23 years ago, knows what it’s like to be in the victims’ position.

“I was one of those people. So I hate to say I understand, because every situation is different … but I do have some working knowledge of how that can be, because I felt that way,” she said.

In recent years, violent crimes have spiked dramatically in New Orleans. In September, the city had the most homicides per capita in the U.S.

“We don’t have the population we had pre-Katrina, and we still experience in tragedy after tragedy. Violence is still being perpetuated and folks are still dying,” she said.

“I can gather information from the families and share with law enforcement, and vice versa. The family are key allies because they know [the victim], good or bad,” she added.

Jackson is also the executive director of a community organization, Silence is Violence, formed in 2007.

The organization aims to promote safety and youth engagement in New Orleans.

“I’ve had days where we’ve had six [homicides], and all of us are moving the same people from one scene to the next. We don’t have enough people where we can dispatch and have a whole new crew respond.”


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