By Martin Savidge Correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/3/2007 5:57:12 PM ET 2007-04-03T21:57:12

Since Friday, eight people have been murdered in New Orleans despite the addition of National guard troops, state police and Federal agents. And the killing is done at point-blank range in broad daylight, leaving neighborhoods fearful and police frustrated.

What amazes even federal investigators about New Orleans crime isn't the violence, but the silence.

"A comment from an FBI agent today is that they can't believe that citizens won't say anything," New Orleans Police Chief Warren Riley says.

Four men were killed Monday alone, bringing the number of murders in the city so far this year to 53. That compares to just 17 for the same period last year. Yet police are frustrated by crime scene after crime scene where many people watch but nobody talks.

"These aren't random incidents," Riley says.

Authorities say drugs and revenge motivate much of the killing.

"Enough has been enough," says Rev. Robert Brown.

Some suggest desperate Hurricane Katrina survivors are turning to drug trafficking for income. 

"Of course it's going to get worse until they treat poor people better," Brown says.

But University of New Orleans criminologist Peter Scharf says the answer may be much more complicated, and so far has eluded even a beefed-up federal presence.

"Things that everyone thought would work, didn't," Scharf says.

Meanwhile, a judge in New Orleans says he will release dozens of criminal defendants , saying they can't get adequate legal representation due to an overwhelmed and under-funded public defenders office.

Judge Arthur Hunter described the situation in Orleans Parish as "a mockery of what a criminal justice system should be in a Western civilized nation."

"He's seen year after year go by where the problem has been allowed to fester and fester and not get any better and nobody's addressing it," says Steve Singer of the Orleans Parish Public Defender's Office.

As one official put it "you can't fix the crime problem in the street when the criminal justice system is so broken."

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