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Victims - National Crime Victimization Survey (ncvs)

household conducted results bureau

In a variety of sizes and shapes, victimization surveys are conducted today in many of the major countries of the world. Since l989, under the leadership of the Netherlands, a group of countries have collaborated on a standard survey technique that allows some comparative conclusions to be drawn. In 1989 the lowest European crime rates were found in Northern Ireland, Switzerland, and England, and the highest in Spain and the Netherlands (Dijk, Mayhew, and Killias). Three years later the results were essentially the same, though the English rate had escalated somewhat (Dijk and Mayhew).

In the United States, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) was begun in 1972 by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. A thoroughgoing revision of the survey instrument in 1992 makes it impossible to compare earlier results with those obtained since that date. The new screening procedures introduced in 1992 included detailed cues to help respondents recall crime incidents; they produced a higher reported level of victimization, especially for assaults. The updated approach also focuses more heavily on offenses committed by family members against each other and by acquaintances. These are subjects that respondents often are reluctant to discuss without considerable prompting.

The victimization survey now is conducted by the Bureau of the Census under the auspices of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, housed in the U.S. Department of Justice. NCVS interviews are held every six months, using a national panel of approximately 49,000 households with a total of about 101,000 residents. Ninety-five percent of the persons asked to participate in the survey agree to do so. A single household respondent details crime victimizations for all members of the household over the age of twelve in inter-views that take about half an hour. Each household is contacted for information seven times. The first and the fifth interviews are done face-to-face; the other five are conducted by telephone. If a household changes location its members remain in the survey pool for the full period before being replaced on the panel. The approach minimizes telescoping, that is, the tendency of persons to report victimizations that occurred before the time period of concern. To keep the data as time-bound as possible, the results of the initial interview with a household are not included in the NCVS.

The victim survey inevitably reports a good deal more criminal activity—more than twice as much—than does the annual Uniform Crime Reports issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which takes into account only offenses reported to the police.

Victims - Problems With The Victimization Survey [next] [back] Victims - The Emergence Of Victim Concerns

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