Homicide Takes a Holiday

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Homicide, man's most violent act against man, is declining in the U.S. In 1934 the national rate was 5.8 deaths per 100,000 persons; by last year, according to a new study of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. policyholders, the figure had dropped to 1.9 per 100,000. Last week,with the first 1955 statistics being tallied, the trend was still downward. Other changes on the homicide chart:

¶The decline has been most dramatic among white males, who are being killed at a rate 70% lower than in 1934. Only among aging nonwhite men (55-64 years old) has the homicide rate increased — up 2% in 20 years.

¶The generation most susceptible to murder and other forms of homicide in 1934 is still being killed at the peak national rate. In 1934 most white male victims of homicide were 25 to 34 years old, most females 20 to 24. After two decades the dangerous years have moved right along: men 45 to 54 and women 35 to 44 are most frequently done in.

¶Younger Americans are much less prone to death by violence than their parents. e.g., homicides among nonwhite males in their late 20s and early 30s dropped from 102.9 per 100,000 in 1934 to 38.5 last year.

¶The South, traditionally the most homicidal area in the nation, is still the U.S. record holder, according to the latest statistics. Twelve of the 14 states with the highest homicide records are Southern. The large nonwhite population in the South is only partly accountable: homicide among white males in the South ranges up to more than twice the national average. Georgia, with 14.6 homicides per 100,000 Georgians, leads all the states.

¶The residents of New England are the least likely to kill one another. Vermont, with a homicide rate of 0.5 per 100,000 in 1952 (six deaths), has the most tranquil record in the U.S.

¶ Firearms are accountable for slightly more than half of the nation's deaths by homicide, cutting and piercing instruments for a quarter, miscellaneous means for the rest. Gun-toting Wyoming and South Dakota polished off 87% of their homicide victims by bullets in 1952. Vermonters, on the other hand, prefer hammers, knives and iron bars: Vermont was the only state to report no homicides by firearms in 1952.

¶Despite the encouraging decline, the U.S. homicide record is far from the best in the world. American whites are being killed at more than twice the rate of their Canadian and Australian brothers. The U.S. homicide rate is three times that of Scotland, six times that of England, Ireland and Wales. Among the more violent homicidal nations: the Dominican Republic (7.5 per 100,000), Guatemala (4.2), Ceylon (3.9), Finland (3.3). No reliable figures are available on homicides behind the Iron Curtain.

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