BJS’s independence as a statistical agency would be enhanced by fuller use of its flagship study. The NCVS has unique value in providing insight on the etiology as well as the characteristics of crime not reported to police. It is critically important for the NCVS to continue to provide annual estimates of levels and changes in criminal victimization—and be funded commensurately—but also that the NCVS’s substantive reach grow through the use of topic supplements.
BJS’s individual data series are of generally high quality but would benefit from attention to explicit conceptual frameworks on several levels. Most generally, the interrelationships of BJS’s current set of collections are not always immediately clear; this is particularly so for BJS’s law enforcement collections, the utility of which have been hurt by an overly restrictive focus on management and administration issues. Core-supplement frameworks should be implemented within BJS’s major surveys, streamlining recurring basic content to a simplified “core” and adding structured topic supplements. In BJS’s data series on adjudication, we urge a third type of framework—progression toward a more rigorous basis in probability sampling as computerized case management systems become more accessible.
The nation currently has two principal indicators of crime and justice: BJS’s NCVS and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, the latter of which covers crimes reported to the police. Both these series have unique strengths in studying crime but share the common problem of lengthy lag times between data collection and the release of the results. We suggest that BJS study the feasibility of compiling crime incident data already maintained in individual police departments’ electronic systems. This new collection is not intended to duplicate the UCR, as it would not involve local police staff to record counts in a prescribed fashion; it is simply intended as a way to leverage the availability of existing local data and to produce a quick indicator of general national crime trends.
BJS data cover all the steps in the criminal justice process but, almost exclusively, this coverage is cross-sectional in nature. We see a longitudinal approach as essential to study the performance of the justice system as a whole. We recommend a variety of strategies for improving longitudinal structures, ranging from improving the linkage capacity of existing data to fielding panel surveys of crime victims or persons leaving incarceration.
Outreach and dissemination are areas in which BJS has made laudable strides. Its network of state Statistical Analysis Centers (SACs) stands as a strong example of federal-state cooperation. The network benefits BJS in terms of feedback and the inventiveness of research performed by the SACs, while the SACs benefit from technical assistance that would be cost-prohibitive to provide on their own; we urge continued strengthening of the BJS-SAC relationship. To further strengthen outreach, we suggest that BJS