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U.S. Murder Rate Increases Again

The nation's murder rate for 1991 reached its highest level in a decade, topping 24,000 for the first time, figures indicate.

Based on a survey of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the Senate Judiciary Committee estimates there were 24,020 homicides last year, up 580 from 23,440 slayings reported in 1990. This record high represents a 2.5 percent increase over the year before. In the years 1985 to 1991, the murder toll has soared by more than 25 percent.

The national murder rate figures reflect a hike not only in the number of slayings, but the chance of becoming a homicide victim, since the murder rate increased faster than the population, according to Census Bureau figures released in January.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, used the report to point out that the United States' murder toll is more than 2.5 times greater than the combined murder total for Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Japan during 1988. Like the opportunist politician he is, Biden used the new figures to push for passage of the harsh omnibus anti-crime bill that stalled in Congress last December.

The top three states in terms of murders were California with 3,710 murders; Texas with 2,660, and New York with 2,550. Just as "Great Powers in relative decline instinctively respond by spending more on 'security' and thereby.:. compound their long-term dilemma," so too do national governments respond to issues of social order with increasing levels of short-sighted violence [Paul Kennedy, Rise And Fall of the Great Powers]. Not surprisingly, California, Texas, and New York are the three states with the nation's largest prison populations.

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