Murders, rapes, robberies and assaults hit record highs in the United States last year and an "epidemic of violent crime" is sweeping the nation, a congressional report said.

The report, released Tuesday, said there were 23,200 Americans killed in 1990, the largest one-year increase in the country's murder toll in more than a decade and the one-year increase in rapes was the biggest since 1978-79.Written by the Democratic staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the report was released by Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., who, at the same time, offered legislation to control violent crime.

The report was prepared by using preliminary FBI crime figures for 1990 and information gathered by the committee staff. No final statistics were included for rapes, robberies and assaults.

But the report estimated that 1.8 million Americans were murdered, raped, robbed or assaulted last year and said that "Americans are more likely than ever before to be the victims of violent crime."

"American streets and neighborhoods are under siege. Violent crime has leapt to levels never seen in our nation's history," the report said.

"The record murder toll of 1990 left more than 23,200 killed," the report added. "The most recent FBI data indicate that 1990 has also set bloody records for every other violent crime - rape, robbery and assault. All told, a record total of nearly 2 million Americans were victims of violent crime last year."

"The epidemic of violent crime has swept the entire nation - no region, state, city or town has been spared the enormous outbreak," the report added. "Even those living in rural America, as well as those from suburban and urban areas, are seeing the deadly rise of violent crime."

The staff report said the rise in violent crime has been prompted by the emergence of "dangerous new criminals." It singled out youths involved in highly organized drug operations and new Asian gangs.