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Utah can still be counted among the country's safest states - just don't cross the border.

Nevada claimed the dubious honor of America's "Most Dangerous State" in 1996, according to a study released Thursday by an independent research group.The Silver State scored last in an average of 14 safety-related factors ranging from the murder rate to full-time sworn officers.

Nevada unseated Louisiana as the most dangerous state. Utah was ranked 35th.

"To be sure, Nevada can be a lot of fun. But equally as sure, Nevada has a problem with crime," said Scott Morgan, co-founder of Morgan Quinto Press which conducted the study. "People love to go to (Nevada) to gamble, but the real gamble may be with your safety.

America's safest state? Vermont, followed by Maine and North Dakota.

The study reports only six states enjoying lower murder rates than Utah - while Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas form the top of the homicide rate list.

The Beehive State gleaned high "safe" scores in several crime factors, including state prisoner incarceration rate and police-to-resi-dent ratio.

On the other end, Utah was given low marks in reported juvenile arrest rates and percentage of government spending allocated for police protection.

Doug Bodrero, commissioner of Utah's department of public safety, said he's skeptical of all national comparative crime studies because of arbitrary reporting and demographics.

"A lot of the states at the top of the most dangerous list are tourist states with a lot of transients," said Bodrero.

Other "safe" states, like Vermont, have a disproportionate number of elderly people - folks less likely to commit crimes, said Bodrero.

Still, Bodrero is concerned with Utah's growing violent crime rate, which jumped 9 percent last year.

Morgan Quitno Press is an independent private research and publishing company located in Law-rence, Kansas. The firm based the rankings on crime rankings of U.S. cities of 100,000 population or more and 281 metropolitan areas in all major areas of crime. Each large city and metro area were ranked in 40 crime categories.


Additional Information

Most Dangerous states

1996 Rank State 1995 Rank

1. Nevada 3.

2. Louisiana 1.

3. Florida 4.

4. Maryland 2.

5. Arizona 7.

35. Utah 33.

46. West Virginia 48.

47. New Hampshire 47.

48. North Dakota 46.

49. Maine 50.

50. Vermont 49.