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Drug Use Linked to Many Crimes in US

CRIME and drugs go together as naturally as bacon and eggs. Drug-related crime will be the top concern of many Americans tonight when President Bush addresses the nation on his new war on illegal narcotics.

Federal studies show that concern is well placed. A report issued last year by the US Department of Justice found that about 4 of every 10 state prison inmates convicted of violent offenses were under the influence of illegal drugs at the times of their crimes.

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An estimated 28 percent of all murders, for example, are committed while the killer is under the influence of illegal narcotics. Some 42 percent of those serving time for robbery were using drugs when they committed their crimes.

Drugs are a major influence on America's criminal class. One federal study found that 80 percent of all state prison inmates were using illegal drugs on a regular basis at the time they were locked up.

Drug use is especially common among felons convicted of property crimes, like burglary, auto theft, and larceny. Property crimes are often committed to raise money to feed a drug habit.

The surge in drug-related crimes has led to crowded prisons and early release for many inmates. Federal and state officials are calling for new prisons to house the convict overflow.

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