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Victims - Problems With The Victimization Survey

persons ncvs assaults crime

A shortcoming of the NCVS is that respondents may be inclined to report events that are not criminal, though they believe them to be. This has been particularly true in regard to minor assaults, which rarely capture the attention of law enforcement. Also, series incidents, matters such as spouse abuse, that often have no clearcut beginning or end, frustrate the NCVS since the survey focuses only on discrete events. There also is the matter of bias inherent in the interview format. Persons may desist reporting if what they have to say involves too much of their time and becomes tedious, or they may feel compelled to play into what they interpret as an interviewer's desire to hear about a lot of criminal episodes, real or imagined. Besides, the respondent may not recall or be aware of all of the victimization experiences of other people living in the household. In addition, the NCVS fails to include the experiences of persons not anchored in fixed households, such as the homeless and transients.

Bias that intrudes into victim surveys is shown by the finding that persons with college degrees typically report more assaults than do persons with only an elementary school education (Gove, Hughes, and Geerken). Since it is likely that members of the latter group actually have been victimized by assaults at least as much and probably much more often than the college-educated group, it is reasonable to believe that behaviors that are regarded as routine and inconsequential by persons in the less well-educated group are taken much more seriously by those with more schooling.

Finally, reverse record checks have discovered that persons who reported to the police a crime committed against them by an acquaintance often failed to inform a victimization interviewer of the event. The reverse record checks found that two-thirds of such offenses were not mentioned in crime victim surveys, while three-quarters of the crimes reported to the police and committed by strangers were disclosed.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics supplemented the NCVS survey by conducting a city-level telephone survey in 1999. A total of some eight hundred households were contacted in twelve cities, using a method called random digital dialing. The survey found that from 20 to 48 percent of the respondents noted that they were "fearful" of crime, though in no city did more than 10 percent say that they were "very fearful." The highest levels of expressed fear were in Chicago and Washington, D.C. (48%) and the lowest in Madison, Wisconsin (20%) (Smith, Steadman, Minton, and Townsend).

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almost 7 years ago

fantastic i do enjoy this post