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National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)

While many people are familiar with the United States Census every 10 years as mandated by the Constitution, over 100 different surveys are conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau each year. SBB Research Group summarizes vital information from about these lesser-known—but significant—surveys in this educational series.

What is the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)?

The NCVS complements the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports—an annual compilation of police information. The NCVS also counts incidents not reported to the police and provides trends from the victim’s perspective. In 2018, for example, most personal crimes and the majority of property crimes were unreported to the police—55.4 percent and 64.9 percent, respectively. The NCVS, therefore, seeks to provide a comprehensive picture of the impact that crimes of all types have on the general population.

How is the Data Collected?

The NCVS, conducted for the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is a longitudinal study that collects data from a representative sample of 95,000 households who remain in the sample for 36 months. Subjects are interviewed every six months, either in person or over the phone, to collect information on the types and amount of crime involving people age 12 or older. Periodically, the survey includes crime in schools, contacts with law enforcement, and identity theft.

The NCVS collects information on nonfatal personal crimes (e.g., rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault, and personal larceny) and household property crimes (e.g., burglary/trespassing, motor-vehicle theft, and other theft), both reported and not reported to the police.

Subjects’ demographic information is collected (e.g., age, sex, race, marital status, education level, and income) and whether they experienced a victimization. The NCVS also collects demographic information about the offender for each incident, the characteristics of the crime (e.g., time and place of occurrence, use of weapons, nature of any injury, and economic consequences), whether the crime was reported to police, the reason the crime was reported or was not reported, and victim experiences with the criminal justice system.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics results for 2018 showed that assaults were 77.8 percent of all personal victimizations committed against persons aged 12 or older, and the remainder of the personal crimes includes robbery, rape/sexual assault, and purse-snatching/pocket-picking. The most reported type of property crime for 2018 was theft, such as lawn furniture stolen from a backyard or a bicycle stolen from the driveway—which accounted for 76.5 percent of all property crimes. Other property crimes included burglary (19.5 percent) and motor vehicle theft (4.0 percent).

How is the Data Used?

The NCVS is used by law enforcement, judicial, and correctional agencies to improve their effectiveness and to plan and develop preventative actions. The data is critical to the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, as well as various branches of the Department of Justice.


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