the quality of the survey. (The panel’s assessment of various features of the survey is the subject of Chapters 7, 8, and 9.) In reading this chapter, it is important to keep in mind that the NCVS is an omnibus survey, covering many types of criminal victimizations, not just rape and sexual assault. However, to the extent possible and in keeping with the panel’s charge, this chapter and the entire report are focused on the issues relevant to those two victimizations.


Origins and Early Development: 1967-1991

The NCVS has its roots in a report from President Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice in 1967. The commission reported that the UCR was useful in many ways, but it noted several critical concerns with having just one source of crime statistics. One concern was that the UCR was a summary of only those crimes reported to (and recorded by) police and not all crimes (see Chapter 3). Secondly, the commission found that the UCR administrative statistics were open to possible manipulation and misrepresentation. Finally, the commission said, the UCR lacked information about the victims, the victimization incidents, and the offenders that is needed to develop effective policy choices. The commission recommended the development of a national crime survey (President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, 1967; Rennison and Rand, 2007).

Work on the National Crime Survey (NCS), predecessor of the NCVS, began soon afterwards with small-scale field tests of questions asked of victims of crimes that had been reported to police. A questionnaire was developed from these tests, which was initially implemented as a supplement to the Census Bureau’s Quarterly Household Survey in 1971. These supplements served as a way to further develop concepts and questions; they were not used to produce BJS published reports.

In July 1972 the new NCS was fielded. The core had a sample of 72,000 households and noninstitutionalized group quarters.1 In addition, the suite of surveys included a national sample of 15,000 businesses, as well as city-based samples in each of 26 major cities (12,000 households and 2,000 businesses) to support local-area estimates of victimization. These


1Group quarters included group living arrangements, generally of individuals who are not related to each other, such as college residence halls, residential treatment centers, etc.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement