As homicides spike, demand for victims' assistance grows
BATON ROUGE - Stacks of manila file folders cover Jane Wood's office. Each folder represents a victim of a violent crime. In her seven years as Crime Victims Coordinator for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, Wood says her workload this year is incredible.
"It's just nonstop," Wood said. "There were three homicides this weekend. Sometimes there are four or five shootings a night."
Wood's work begins shortly after a violent crime happens, getting in touch with the surviving victims, or in the case of homicide victims, their families.
"For homicides, we give [families] a day because they're in such shock," Wood said.
Wood says the vast majority of victims she interacts with are the most vulnerable, lacking access to resources. It's those desperately needed resources her office can provide.
One of Wood's most often used tools is the Crime Victims' Reparations Program, which can give innocent victims, or their families, funds to cover or reimburse funeral and burial costs, medical bills, and lost wages, among other expenses.
"The trickle-down effect [of] what one murder does to a family, or to this community, is just incredible," Wood said.
Last year, 262 cases were awarded funds through the Crime Victims' Reparations Program, totaling $874,926.62.
So far this year, Wood says 165 cases have received reparations, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. She expects the total number of cases and dollar amount awarded this year to surpass 2020 totals.
After a weekend that saw several homicides, Wood has more manilla folders on her desk. Some of the families she must now reach out to do not even know the program and other resources exist for victims. Others will reach out to her office first, desperately in need of help.
"[Offenders] don't think about the parents," Wood said. "They don't think about the little brother or sister. They don't think about anything else, what it does to this family. Their lives are forever, forever changed."
For more information on Crime Victim Services or to see if you are eligible for the Crime Victims' Reparations Program, click here.