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Baghdad Crime Rate Rises Dramatically - 2003-10-20

The amount of violent crime in Baghdad has jumped dramatically since before the war that ousted former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Homicides have increased more than 30 times their pre-war rate.

According to the director of the Baghdad Medical Institute, violent crime in Baghdad is rampant and beyond anything the capital city experienced during the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Dr. Faiq Amin Batir, who is also in charge of the city morgue in Baghdad, says that right now, no one feels safe.

"Nobody knows when he will be killed, when he will be attacked, when he will be looted," he said. "This is the real situation, actually."

Dr. Batir says proof of escalating violent crime lies in the numbers. He says that prior to the war the Baghdad morgue received, on average, about 300 bodies per month. Of those, an average of 16 were gunshot-related cases.

But over this summer the numbers skyrocketed.

"We received in June about 500 and in July we received 720 cases," Dr. Batir said. "From that 720, 498 were due to firearm and explosive injuries. In August, the figure went higher, 800 and something."

While Dr. Batir said his medical facility has been able to handle the dramatic rise in the number of bodies it receives, he says there are too few trained pathologists, and the morgue, he said, is less than what it used to be.

"We are working with the same facilities as if before the war, even less because most of the parts of the institute were looted during the conflict," he said.

Dr. Batir says he is not necessarily surprised by the dramatic jump in deaths related to violent crime. He says there are many criminals armed with guns, and too few security personnel.

"There are a lot of criminals because of the lack of security, lack of police control, lack of security people," he said. "You know, Iraq was controlled by many security systems."

The Coalition Provisional Authority says reestablishing security is its number one objective and is hoping to have a total of 80,000 police officers throughout Iraq within the next 18 months.

Until then, Dr. Batir says, no one in Baghdad will be completely safe - including himself.