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More than 7,000 U.S. public officials and employeees were convicted on federal corruption charges during the 10 years ending in 1986, the Justice Department said.

Annual convictions of federal, state and local officials have risen steadily from 440 in 1977 to 1,026 in 1986, according to a new report by the Justice Department's public integrity section.The greatest number of the 7,286 convictions for the 10-year period were federal officials - up from 94 convictions in 1977 to 523 in 1986.

"The cases show that federal prosecutors nationwide are increasingly sensitive to the inherent seriousness of corruption offenses and pursue them vigorously," said Gerald McDowell, chief of the public integrity section.

While federal authorities have focused more attention on public corruption cases in the last decade, the increase in the number of convictions is partly due to better reporting of cases, officials said.

The 1986 public integrity report, the most recently compiled, identifies public corruption as abuse of office by a public employee, even a low-level employee.

Those convicted included federal judges, U.S. prosecutors, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents, state and local judges, sheriffs and police.

Justice Department officials said illegal narcotics - including the taking of bribes or trafficking - contributed to much of the increase. There was no breakout of specific charges.

In 1977, public corruption convictions included 94 federal, 38 state and 164 local officials, and 144 lower-level employees in all three categories.

By the end of 1986, convictions totaled 523 federal, 71 state, 207 local and 225 lower-level employees.

The federal judicial districts with the largest number of cases in all three categories during 1986 included Southern New York, 383; Northern Illinois, 264; Eastern New York, 188; South Carolina, 170; Western Tennessee, 167; and Central California, 154.