Crime in New Orleans is more than just statistics to Stephanie Uddo.
“I’m a pediatric ICU nurse, I take care of sick kids all the time, [and] to have one come at me with a gun was very disheartening,” Uddo said during a recent community discussion led by Voices of the Victims of Crime at the University of New Orleans’ Newman Center. “All I could remember was looking at that, and just getting out of the car and having to comply. The driver was yelling at me to leave my keys, leave my purse, leave everything. I thought I was going to die,” she said.
Uddo’s traumatic experience is similar to the many carjacking cases in New Orleans that the police respond to. Police understand the importance of being proactive to ensure the safety of residents, but with the shortage of officers, they are facing a crisis themselves.
“We’re challenged with trying to meet everyone’s needs and then dealing with the more violent crimes,” said Lieutenant Ernest Luster, assistant commander of the Third District.
Support for crime victims is supposed to be an ongoing advocacy between law enforcement, social workers and the district attorney’s office. However, the communication is lost when there is a disconnect between liaisons in the district attorney’s office and victims. During the meeting, lead organizer of the Voices of the Victims of Crime and community activist Anne Keifer voiced her grievances with Uddo’s experience with the criminal justice process.
“You were supposed to be able to access services and the ball was dropped,” Keifer said.
With only four social workers assigned to reach out to victims in all eight police districts in New Orleans, District D Councilman Eugene Green believes putting more pressure on law enforcement and the district attorney’s office is needed to get more support for victims. He says writing letters, making calls and sending emails is a small but effective way to make change.
“We need to advocate with the agencies of police and the DA, that they contact witnesses,” Green said. “It doesn’t have to be so convoluted and complex.”
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