Salt Lake City has broken a record of which it may not be proud.

Two recent homicides has brought the number of killings in the city this year to 26, eclipsing all previous records. And that is with another month left in 1995.A woman was found in a car near 717 West and 200 North on Nov. 23. Police have not said how she was killed. Identified as Melisa Ross, 33, she was believed to be a prostitute.

A man found in a house at 745 S. Denver (440 East) Sunday became the city's 26th homicide. The motive for his murder has also not been released.

This is only the fifth time the city has had more than 20 homicides. This year breaks the previous record set in 1990 of 25 homicides.

The only other years that broke the 20 mark are: 1978 with 21, 1993 with 22 and 1994 with 24.

Historically, domestic violence and plain old anger have been to blame in many of city's homicides.

But the most common motive in 1995 is a problem police have grown to know: drugs.

"The drug situation seems to be the primary connecting factor," said Sgt. Jim Faraone, spokesman for the police department. "There are 10 drug-related homicides and another half-dozen that have (drugs) as secondary elements."

The increase in drug activity within the city has prompted the department to beef up patrols in Pioneer Park, an area once populated with drugs. But drugs crop up city-wide.

"It's not lack of trying on the police department's side - we're really trying," Faraone said, noting that the number of arrests is good, but repeat offenders keep showing up.

Just one example is the city's first triple homicide, June 20. One of the suspects in the case, which left three men dead, was a Mexican national who was deported out of the country in May.

Faraone said 14 arrests have been made in connection with the homicides.

Only two of the 26 homicides were domestic-violence related. That may be, in part, because of the department's active approach to the problem, Faraone said.

And, although the department also has drug task forces, the ever-growing presence of drugs seems more complex.

There are the dealers and the buyers, and it often comes down to who is making money and who owes money.

"A revenge murder related to drugs, it seems to just surface more often that not," Faraone said.

After the record-setting 1990, the numbers of homicides in the city declined but quickly went back to their ascent. In 1991, there were 15 homicides. In 1992, there were 13. There were 22 in 1993.

Salt Lake County has fared better in terms of numbers. In 1994, there were 13 homicides in the county. So far, this year there have been nine - only two were drug related.

Sgt. Jerry Townsend said the county has two cases, with three victims, that remain unsolved.