U.S. leads world in violent crime, panel reports

March 13, 1991|By Tim Weiner | Tim Weiner,Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- The United States is "the most violent and self-destructive nation on earth," the Senate Judiciary Committee said in a report released yesterday.

The report depicted Americans killing, raping and robbing each other at a furious rate, surpassing every other country that keeps crime statistics.

The nation's citizens committed a record number of killings in 1990 -- at least 23,200, or nearly three an hour -- and a record number of rapes, robberies and assaults, the committee said.

"In 1990, the United States led the world with its murder, rape and robbery rates," the report said. "When viewed from the national perspective, these crime rates are sobering. When viewed from the international perspective, they are truly embarrassing."

The report noted that the murder rate in the United States was more than twice that of Northern Ireland, which is torn by civil war; four times that of Italy; nine times England's; and 11 times Japan's.

[There were 305 homicides in Baltimore in 1990, 43 more than in the previous year. The record for Baltimore was 330 murders in 1972.]

Violence against women in the United States was even more pervasive, the committee said.

The rape rate in the United States was eight times higher than in France, 15 times higher than in England, 23 times higher than in Italy and 26 times higher than in Japan, according to the report.

Robbery rates followed much the same pattern: six times higher than in England, seven times higher than in Italy -- and nearly 150 times higher than in Japan.

The committee's report, based on raw FBI data and preliminary statistics for last year, based its comparisons on Justice Department statistics for industrialized nations. Crime reporting standards vary in those countries, and crime rates for less-developed Third World nations generally are either unavailable or unreliable.

However, the report made clear that violence in the United States has no equal among the world's developed nations.

Nor did 1990 have a modern equal for violence in the United States.

"More than 1.8 million Americans were murdered, raped, robbed or assaulted in 1990," the committee said. That makes the violent crime rate last year the highest ever, which means Americans are likelier to become victims of violent crimes today than at any time in modern history, the committee said.

Over the past generation, the number of violent crimes has risen 12 times faster than the population. Rape and assault rates are rising even faster, the report said.

The population of the United States has grown 41 percent since 1960, while violent crimes have increased 516 percent, according to FBI and U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Fewer than 35 Americans became the victims of violent criminals every hour in 1960. Today about 200 Americans are victimized every hour.

One reason for the rise in crime may be the decline in police officers.

In a striking historical comparison, cited in the report by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., a member of the Judiciary Committee, the United States had more than three police officers for every reported violent crime in 1950.

In 1990, there were more than three violent crimes for every police officer.

Yet the Bush administration proposes to cut federal funding for state and local law agencies by nearly $100 million, down to $450 million, Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., said yesterday.

Senator Biden released the report as he introduced crime-control legislation aimed at increasing federal funding for state and local police by $1 billion, banning assault weapons and imposing the death penalty for more than 30 federal offenses.

President Bush submitted his crime bill Monday.

The committee also blamed the rising tide of violence on drug wars, deadly weapons and demographic changes.

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