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Surveying Victims: Options for Conducting the National Crime Victimization Survey
Although the NCVS may have echoed UCR structures in order to establish an equal footing, it remains true that the NCVS is designed to produce that which the UCR “has never attempted to produce: a count of crime that includes serious offenses, like rape, that may never be reported to police” (Robinson, 2007). In providing these data “in a reliable and consistent fashion,” Robinson (2007) argues that BJS’ sponsorship of the NCVS fills “a distinctly federal role,” generating data that no single state can afford to produce on a regular basis.4 We discuss victimization surveys that have been conducted by individual states in Section 3–D.
2–D ANALYTIC FLEXIBILITY
In the early 1970s, as now, the UCR gathered monthly and yearly crime totals in only a few (currently eight) broad categories, and the FBI received them only at the jurisdiction level. One promise of the NCVS was that the incident-level data it produced could be used to address a variety of research and policy questions, because of the analytic flexibility of surveys. One feature of this flexibility is that the NCVS can be analyzed at multiple levels. The survey gathers reports of individual and household victimization, and most descriptive publications examine rates of crime at those levels. However, the data can be organized in a variety of ways to address descriptive and analytic questions.
Households “touched by crime”: BJS reports have combined data for households and all of the individuals living in them, to characterize the percentage of households that have had some recent experience with crime (e.g., Klaus, 2007). Families are another analytic unit that can be distinguished in the survey, and a variety of family crimes are within the scope of the survey (Durose et al., 2005).
Crimes by location: Fairly detailed descriptions of the location of incidents are gathered in the NCVS, revealing that 22 percent of the victims of violence were involved in some form of leisure activity away from home at the time of their victimization; 22 percent reported they were at home, and another 20 percent mentioned they were at work or traveling to or from work when the crime occurred. See, for example, Warchol (1998) for specific study of workplace violence. Schools are another important locus for crime problems, and the survey has been used extensively to examine school crime (as described further in the next section).
Robinson (2007), testifying before a congressional appropriations subcommittee, argued that NCVS should be afforded “a broadened role in helping in our understanding of victimization. BJS should be provided with increased funding to enable it to measure crime on a state-by-state basis, and even to the level of large cities.”