Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's portrait hangs on the wall where the shah's used to be, but the ways of the orient remain much the same for some matters even under the revolution.
Col. Ahmed Tahiri, head of the Criminal Investigatgion Division, spends more time than he likes receiving a steady flow of fellow citizens who trust only in the boss's personal intervention to solve their problems.
Such is the crush that his aides lock him into his spacious office to discourage the impatient from bursting in on him.
Still he has the gift of turning his lair into an oasis of calm. A refrigerator in the corner dispenses soft drinks and the colonel produces a box of cookies as he swells on the rising crime rate since the revolution.
Only normal, he explains, but so too was the success of his police force.
Tehran's already overcrowded prerevolutionary population of 4.5 million has grown by 1.5 million in the past 15 months are privincials have sought work in the capital.
And soaring crime is only normal, too, when at least 300,000 arms of all descriptions fell into the public's hands when the police and Army arsenals were looted in the February 1979 insurrection.
Only normal when the number of heroin and opium addicts has increased mightily -- and police the world over recognize the connection between crime and drugs. And how could it be otherwise since during the insurrection perhaps 30,000 common criminals were released from jail by the revolutionaries? p
Like so much else in revolutionary Iran, no one knows for sure.All the pertinent crime records were destroyed during the insurrection, but the colonel estimates that 2,000 former inmates are back behind bars.
What was truly amazing, said the veteran of 27 years in police service, was that for the first two weeks after the revolution there was virtually no crime at all. Khomeini had called for unity and unity he got. "Even the criminals obeyed," the colonel said.
But then crimes of violence started -- rape, murder, burglary, armed robbery, "Lots of revenge crimes," he said, "people settling old scores."
If tht kind of crime has now leveled off, car theft has zoomed -- up from an average of 600 a month before the revolution to 1,100 now.
"We're recovering up to 90 percent of the stolen cars," the colonel said. Most car thieves are only interested in the radios or tape decks. Many are drug addicts.
Cooperation with the komitehs, set up to maintain law and order when the police were nowhere to be seen during the insurrection is not official but is effctive in many cases, the colonel said.
The colonel has nothing but good to say of the komitehs and the Revolutionary Guards, the revolution's own security force, both of which have been accused of running crime syndicates of their own.
He wishes he had more men. He'd like the full complement of 1,100 but even before the revolution, the division made do with 650 men. More than a hundred were kicked out for corruption, excesses under the old regime or suspect political views, especially procommunist sympathies.
His department was luckier than many government or military organizations. Only the very top echelons were purged. Tahiri moved up from the deputy slot.
Left unmentioned was the police's principal problem: recruitment. As in other parts of the administration, loyalty rather than competence is beginning to be the criterion. New purges are recurrent rumors.
"It's hard for us to recruit young people," an off duty police captain said.
"They are worried what will happen to them if the regime changes. After all, if you can get rid of the shah. . ." He did not finish his thought.
Some Revolutionary Guards are interested in joining, but the captain was not impressed. "They don't have a way with people, and that is what police work is really all about."
Down the high-ceilinged halls, an entire section is stacked with enormous piles of Persian carpets. The thieves had been caught and the carpets would be returned to their owners.
In itself that is progress. Only a few months ago thieves rented a ballroom in a major hotel to auction off carpets they had stolen.
The revolution has speeded up the once slow pace of justice. A police officer recounted his surprise that a criminal he arrested had already been tried and sentenced within three days instead of kept waiting in prison for months. So far, criminal justice follows the monarchy's penal code, although the new parliament may adopt Islamic law for all matters, not just matrimonial disputes as now.
Some police officers take heart in the rising prices of black market arms -- as much as the equivalent of $2,285 for an Army automatic rifle and $928 for a service revolver. Soon after the revolution, revolvers were going for as litle as $70. An Iranian who gave a young man a lift at that time was surprised when his guest pulled out a revolver and offered it to pay for the ride.
The price rise reflects the government's success in collecting "liberated" arms but also the violence bordering at times on civil war in Kurdistan in the west and oil-producing Khuzestan in the southwest.
Statistics from the first year of the revolution indicate 31 arrests for murder. A drive off Victory Avenue near the racetrack shows that to be an understatement.
The colonel had fretted about the need to increase patrols. Past the paved part of the boulevard is a part of Tehran which rarely sees any uniformed policemen.
The local people, many of whom moved in from the privinces and built houses on squatter land, have just picked their sixth post-revolutionary corpse out of the tiny trickle they call a river.
Throat neatly cut, he was an Afghan construction worker. The local people look right through the Afghans who are building the houses. Many Iranians consider Afghans a lower breed and the women and children outside the tiny, well-barred grocery shop didn't bother to hide their contempt.
"Who killed him?" a woman in a chador said, passing the photograph of the victim around. "Whoever was after his money." The Revolutionary Guards arrested another Afghan the next day with blood on his shirt. He said he'd had a nose bleed.
"We are all policemen ourselves. Everyone is armed," the woman said. "We've captured 22 or 23 of these thieves," she added, "but the gendrmes always release them for lack of evidence."
"Leave your door open during the day," she complains, "and the women and children from over there will steal you blind." She pointed to dozens and dozens of tents housing some 500 Kurds, apparently from a nomadic tribe who had arrived here several months ago.
Down the dusty road, sitting under a tent, were a half dozen men and boys innocent of work, school or any other exertion. Wrecked cars served as a foundation for a neighboring tent. The stink of outdoor plumbing was inescapable.
"No, no trouble with the Revolutionary Guards," one man said. Yes, indeed they were for the revolution.
"No more SAVAK," one man said, referring to the shah's secret police. "They let us alone, let us live here. Before no. Long live the revolution."