Bureau of Justice Statistics Fact Sheet
National Crime Victimization Survey Redesign
What is the National Crime Victimization What is the redesign ?
The new methodology was systematically
The National Crime Victimization Survey field tested and introduced starting in 1989,
(NCVS) is one of two Justice Department and its results are being published for the first
measures of crime in the United States. A time this year. New questions were added to
pioneering effort when it was begun in 1972, accommodate heightened interest in certain
the survey was intended to complement what types of victimizations. Improvements in
is known about crime from the FBI's annual technology and survey methods were incor-
compilation of information reported to law en- porated in the redesign. The extended effort
forcement agencies. The survey which also to improve the survey is paying off, as the
counts incidents not reported to the police, numbers from the redesign will be available
provides a detailed picture of crime incidents, in October 1994. An advisory panel of crimi-
victims and trends from the victim's perspec- nal justice policymakers, social scientists,
tive. Data are collected every year from a victim advocates, and statisticians oversaw
sample of approximately 50,000 households the work of a consortium of criminologists
more than 100,000 individuals age 12 or and social and survey scientists who con-
over. ducted research on improved procedures.
Victimizations are categorized as personal or What are the results of the redesign ?
property crimes. Personal crimes, including
attempts, involve incidents with direct contact Victims are now reporting more types of
between the victim and offender. (Murder is crime incidents to the survey's interviewers.
not measured by the NCVS because of the Previously undetected victimizations are be-
inability to question the victim.) Property ing captured. For example, the survey
crimes do not involve personal confrontation changes have substantially increased the
and include such crimes as household bur- number of rapes and aggravated and simple
glary, theft, and motor vehicle theft. assaults reported to interviewers. For the
first time, other victimizations, such as non-
Why redesign ? rape sexual assault and unwanted or coerced
sexual contact that involves a threat or at-
Criticism of the earlier survey's capacity to tempt to harm, are also being measured.
gather information about certain crimes, in-
cluding sexual assaults and domestic vio- Why are survey participants reporting so
lence prompted numerous improvements. many more victimizations?
Improved survey methodology improves
the ability of people being interviewed to re- The survey now includes improved questions
call events. and cues that aid victims in recalling victimi-
Public attitudes toward victims have zations. Survey interviewers now ask more
changed, permitting more direct questioning explicit questions about sexual victimizations.
about sexual assaults. Advocates have also encouraged victims to
October 18, 1995 311:42 AM
talk more openly about their experiences. Characteristics of victimizations. The
Together, these changes substantially im- standards the NCVS uses to define different
prove reporting for many types of personal types of victimizations remain largely the
and household crime. same in the redesigned survey. Details other
than what happened to the victim, such as
Can the new results be compared with age, race, victim-offender relationship, and
previous years' ? location of the offense, are also comparable
with information provided by the original sur-
Measuring annual change in crime victimiza- vey. Consequently, data collected about the
tion is one of the most important uses of characteristics of crime incidents are equally
NCVS. The transition to the redesigned sur- reliable, regardless of which questionnaire
vey preserved the ability to detect annual was used to collect it.
change. Both versions of the survey were Annual change estimates. Year-to-year
used simultaneously to collect data for victimization comparisons have always been
1992-93. The overlap also permits measur- calculated on data collected with like ques-
ing the differences between the old and new tionnaire and procedures. Comparisons for
surveys to show whether the 1992-93 differ- 1991-92 were calculated using the old ques-
ences were due to changes in crime or tionnaire., and those for 1992-93 wre pre-
changes in the survey. pared with information from the new
questionnaire. Consequently, any published
Why did the Justice Department pick this findings of differences across years should
time to release these findings? be considered reliable.
Annual change estimates of crime victimiza-
tions are regularly published in the fall. For For more information about the NCVS
the first time, data collected with the rede- redesign, contact Jay Hoover, Bureau
signed survey are available for two consecu- of Justice Statistics, 202-307-1132.
tive years. The transition to the redesigned
survey began in 1989, and this release has The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the Depart-
been planned since that time. ment of Justice collects and analyzes statistics from
all aspects of the criminal justice system. The NCVS
data are collected and processed by the Bureau of
What do the results of the redesign tell us Census. In addition to the National Crime Victimiza-
about the adequacy of information from tion Survey, BJS collects and disseminates informa-
the original survey? tion regarding corrections, law enforcement,
prosecution, drugs, and justice expenditure and em-
Number of victimizations. The original ployment. For more information call the BJS Clear-
National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) inghouse at 1-800-732-3277.
benefited from survey methods that were
state-of-the-art at the time it was developed.
The improvements in survey procedures
for the redesigned NCVS have resulted in in-
creased reporting of victimizations. Because
victims are reporting more victimization expe-
riences, the redesigned survey is in fact pro-
ducing a more comprehensive picture of the
overall volume of crime.
October 18, 1995 3:10 PM