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Clinton Touts Crime Decline; Dole Visits Tent-City Prison

President Clinton and Republican challenger Bob Dole continued to hammer on crime Tuesday as the federal government reported that the number of violent offenses fell 9 percent last year.

There were nearly 9.9 million violent crimes in 1995, 1 million fewer than the previous year, according to the preliminary estimates by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The final report will be out next spring.

Campaigning in Michigan and Illinois - two states key to his re-election - Clinton said the decline was a result of his anti-crime programs.

“There are a million fewer victims of crime than there was a year ago,” he said in Westland, Mich. “That’s a good sign for America.”

Meanwhile, Dole took his law-and-order campaign message to a tent-city prison in Phoenix, where inmates can’t smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, eat hot lunches or read Playboy magazine.

Vowing to put prisoners to work and make sure they do their time, Dole rubbed shoulders with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom his campaign touted as “America’s toughest sheriff.”

The government crime figures released Tuesday showed that:

Rape decreased almost 18 percent, from 432,700 in 1994 to 354,670 last year.

Robbery fell 14 percent, from 1.3 million to 1.1 million.

Assault declined 8 percent, from 9.1 million to 8.4 million. Attacks with injuries fell 24 percent, from 678,500 to 516,500.

Purse snatching and pocket picking were down 18 percent, from 488,930 to 402,590.

In Phoenix, Dole toured the Maricopa County facility.

The 1,000-inmate, $117,000 outdoor prison was erected in 1993 after voters turned down a bond proposal to build a $40 million jail that would have housed the same number of inmates.

“This is not a country club,” Dole said.

On Tuesday it became a metaphor for Dole’s pledge to make federal prisoners work 40 hours a week to help defray incarceration costs and to compensate victims.

The sheriff has cut costs by serving bologna sandwiches instead of hot meals and not providing coffee.

He also demanded short haircuts, gave random drug tests and restricted TV viewing.