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CANADA'S VIOLENT-CRIME RATE FELL 3% IN '94

Canada's violent crime rate posted its biggest decline in more than three decades, the government says, yet a recent poll suggests many Canadians still do not feel safe.

The crime rate, which is considered a barometer of public safety, fell 3 percent in 1994 - the biggest drop since the government began collecting data in 1962.There were 303,398 violent crimes recorded and most of those were assaults, government agency Statistics Canada said.

Canada's homicide rate also fell to a 25-year low in 1994. Since 1975, the homicide rate has fallen 32 percent and last year it was down to two murders per 100,000 people, or a total of 596 murders.

Police reported a total of 2,919,557 criminal offenses in 1994, down 5 percent from the year before.

A poll by the Angus Reid group released this week showed that crime and justice issues are edging up as the most important concerns.

Criminologists say that despite the figures Canadians may not feel safer and were blaming the government.

"What we are seeing is the public wanting to get better health care, a better quality of life generally," said University of Ottawa professor Irvin Waller. "They want to feel safer in their homes and in the schoolyards, and the government is not really delivering that."

Canada has a higher homicide rate than England and Wales where there were 1.4 homicides per 100,000 in 1994, but its rate is much lower than the United States where the Federal Bureau of Investigation said there were nine homicides per 100,000 people in 1994.