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Exaggerated Picture of American Violence

In the Opinion page article ``Prevention: Crime's Cure,'' Aug. 20, the author's estimate that ``1 million Americans die prematurely each year as a result of homicide or suicide'' is about 20 times too high; deaths in the United States from homicide and suicide have averaged closer to 50,000 per year for the past few years.

The author uses his erroneous estimate to bolster his claim that the ``US has more violence than any other country.''

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But even by his measure of violent death (homicides plus suicides) as a gauge of society's violence, the US's violent death rate is about 20 per 100,000 - about the same as such rates for Japan or Switzerland, two countries often cited as paragons of civilization. (Though Japan's and Switzerland's homicide rates are lower than the US's, their suicide rates are much higher.) John Kell, Blacksburg, Va.

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