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Battle to better protect witnesses moves forward in East Baton Rouge

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BATON ROUGE - The East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office says we're in bad shape when it comes to protecting witnesses in cases of murder or domestic abuse.

The D.A. says there isn't enough money or housing to keep victims safe after speaking out against a suspect.

“We are woefully short of most of the things that are probably needed,” said District Attorney Hillar Moore.

But, Moore says a grant they were awarded last year will soon help. It’s a technical assistance grant that brought experts from around the nation to Baton Rouge.

“They spent two days and they met with all the actors in the criminal justice system to assess where Baton Rouge is,” Moore said.

Right now, the District Attorney's Office is waiting for those results. One thing Moore already knows is there is a lack of housing for those who need another place to stay.

“To put someone up in a hotel or overnight quickly is very difficult,” he said. “We just don't have money for that.”

Past cases show why there is a need for more resources. In 2007 Jason Fourmy was found beaten and burned. The charges against the suspect were dropped after multiple witnesses were killed. That's just one example.

“Houses have been shot; people have been shot, intimidated and beaten,” said Moore.

The model Moore said he would ultimately like to follow is Denver’s witness protection program.

“They spend millions of dollars a year on personnel and staff not only to protect witnesses, but to also pursue and prosecute. They follow their witnesses for two years,” said Moore.

The results from the technical assistance grant will also showcase how East Baton Rouge can work with Orleans and Jefferson parishes, possibly sharing housing or personnel resources.

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