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Data Collection: National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)
Status: Active
Frequency: Ongoing from 1973
Latest data available: 2017

The Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is the nation's primary source of information on criminal victimization. Each year, data are obtained from a nationally representative sample of about 240,000 interviews on criminal victimization, involving 160,000 unique persons in about 95,000 households. Persons are interviewed on the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States. The NCVS collects information on nonfatal personal crimes (i.e., rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault, and personal larceny) and household property crimes (i.e., burglary, motor vehicle theft, and other theft) both reported and not reported to police. Survey respondents provide information about themselves (e.g., age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, marital status, education level, and income) and whether they experienced a victimization. For each victimization incident, the NCVS collects information about the offender (e.g., age, race and Hispanic origin, sex, and victim-offender relationship), characteristics of the crime (e.g., time and place of occurrence, use of weapons, nature of injury, and economic consequences), whether the crime was reported to police, reasons the crime was or was not reported, and victim experiences with the criminal justice system.

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Data Experts

  • Erika Harrell, BJS Statistician (Email this expert)
  • Grace Kena, BJS Statistician (Email this expert)
  • Rachel Morgan, Ph.D., BJS Statistician (Email this expert)
  • Barbara Oudekerk, BJS Statistician (Email this expert)
  • Jennifer Truman, Ph.D., BJS Statistician (Email this expert)
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    Collection Period

    1973-2017

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    Questionnaires

    Identity Theft Supplement (ITS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey
    2016 PDF (364K) | 2014 PDF (277K) | 2012 PDF (276K) | 2008 PDF (169K)
    NCVS Basic Screen Questionnaire
    2017 PDF (90K) | 2016 PDF (90K) | 2015 PDF (83K) | 2012-2014 PDF (232K) | 2009-2011 PDF (264K) | 2008 PDF (296K) | 2007 PDF (335K) | 2004 PDF (187K) | 2001 PDF
    NCVS Control Card
    2017 PDF (213K) | 2016 PDF (214K) | 2012-2015 PDF
    NCVS Crime Incident Report
    2017 PDF (181K) | 2016 PDF (182K) | 2015 PDF (182K) | 2012-2014 PDF (157K) | 2009-2011 PDF (726K) | 2008 PDF (648K) | 2007 PDF (335K) | 2004 PDF (169K) | 2001 PDF
    NCVS for Spanish-speaking respondents
    2001 Crime Incident Report (196K) | 2001 Basic Screen Questionnaire for Spanish (221K)
    School Crime Supplement (SCS)
    2015 PDF (186K) | 2013 PDF (213K) | 2011 PDF (123K) | 2009 PDF (194K) | 2001 PDF | 1999 PDF
    Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS)
    2006 PDF (163K)
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    Documentation

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    Methodology

    Survey coverage

    The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is an annual data collection conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).  Each year, data are obtained from a nationally representative sample of about 240,000 interviews on criminal victimization, involving 160,000 unique persons in about 95, 000 households.  Persons are interviewed on the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States. The NCVS collects information on nonfatal personal crimes (i.e., rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault, and personal larceny) and household property crimes (i.e., burglary, motor vehicle theft, and other theft) both reported and not reported to police. In addition to providing annual level and change estimates on criminal victimization, the NCVS is the primary source of information on the nature of criminal victimization incidents.

    Survey respondents provide information about themselves (e.g., age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, marital status, education level, and income) and whether they experienced a victimization. The NCVS collects information for each victimization incident about the offender (e.g., age, race and Hispanic origin, sex, and victim-offender relationship), characteristics of the crime (e.g., time and place of occurrence, use of weapons, nature of injury, and economic consequences), whether the crime was reported to police, reasons the crime was or was not reported, and victim experiences with the criminal justice system.

    The NCVS is administered to persons age 12 or older from a nationally representative sample of households in the United States. The NCVS defines a household as a group of persons who all reside at a sampled address. Persons are considered household members when the sampled address is their usual place of residence at the time of the interview and when they have no usual place of residence elsewhere. Once selected, households remain in the sample for 3½ years, and eligible persons in these households are interviewed every 6 months, either in person or over the phone, for a total of seven interviews.

    First interviews are typically conducted in person with subsequent interviews conducted either in person or by phone. New households rotate into the sample on an ongoing basis to replace outgoing households that have been in the sample for the 3½-year period. The sample includes persons living in group quarters (e.g., dormitories, rooming houses, and religious group dwellings) and excludes persons living on military bases and in institutional settings (e.g., correctional or hospital facilities) and persons who are homeless.

    Nonresponse and weighting adjustments

    The 2017 NCVS data file includes 145,508 household interviews. Overall, 76% of eligible households completed an interview. Within participating households, there were 239,541 personal interviews in 2017, representing an 84% response rate among eligible persons from responding households. Victimizations that occurred outside of the United States were excluded from this report. In 2017, less than 1% of the unweighted victimizations occurred outside of the United States.

    Estimates in NCVS reports generally use data from the 1993 to 2017 NCVS data files, weighted to produce annual estimates of victimization for persons age 12 or older living in U.S. households. Because the NCVS relies on a sample rather than a census of the entire U.S. population, weights are designed to adjust to known population totals and to compensate for survey nonresponse and other aspects of the sample design.

    NCVS data files include person, household, victimization, and incident weights. Person weights provide an estimate of the population represented by each person in the sample. Household weights provide an estimate of the U.S. household population represented by each household in the sample. After proper adjustment, both household and person weights are also typically used to form the denominator in calculations of crime rates. For personal crimes, the incident weight is derived by dividing the person weight of a victim by the total number of persons victimized during an incident as reported by the respondent. For property crimes, the incident weight and the household weight are the same, because the victim of a property crime is considered to be the household as a whole. The incident weight is most frequently used to calculate estimates of the number of crimes committed against a particular class of victim.

    Victimization weights used in these analyses account for the number of persons victimized during an incident and for high-frequency repeat victimizations (i.e., series victimizations). Series victimizations are similar in type but occur with such frequency that a victim is unable to recall each individual event or describe each event in detail. Survey procedures allow NCVS interviewers to identify and classify these similar victimizations as series victimizations and to collect detailed information on only the most recent incident in the series.

    The weighting counts series victimizations as the actual number of victimizations reported by the victim, up to a maximum of 10. Doing so produces more reliable estimates of crime levels than only counting such victimizations once, while the cap at 10 minimizes the effect of extreme outliers on rates. According to the 2017 data, series incidents accounted for 1.3% of all victimizations and 3.0% of all violent victimizations. Additional information on the enumeration of series victimizations is detailed in the report Methods for Counting High-Frequency Repeat Victimizations in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCJ 237308, BJS web, April 2012).

    Standard error computations

    When national estimates are derived from a sample, as with the NCVS, caution must be used when comparing one estimate to another or when comparing estimates over time. Although one estimate may be larger than another, estimates based on a sample have some degree of sampling error. The sampling error of an estimate depends on several factors, including the amount of variation in the responses and the size of the sample. When the sampling error around an estimate is taken into account, estimates that appear different may not be statistically different.

    One measure of the sampling error associated with an estimate is the standard error. The standard error may vary from one estimate to the next. Generally, an estimate with a small standard error provides a more reliable approximation of the true value than an estimate with a large standard error. Estimates with relatively larger standard errors are associated with less precision and reliability and should be interpreted with caution.

    Generalized variance function (GVF) parameters and direct variance estimation methods were used to generate standard errors for each point estimate (e.g., counts, percentages, and rates) in this report. To generate standard errors around victimization and incidence estimates from the NCVS, the U.S. Census Bureau produces GVF parameters for BJS. To generate standard errors around prevalence estimates, BJS used direct variance estimation methods. The GVFs and direct variance estimation methods take into account aspects of the NCVS complex sample design and represent the curve fitted to a selection of individual standard errors based on the Balanced Repeated Replication (BRR) technique.

    BJS conducted statistical tests to determine whether differences in estimated numbers, percentages, and rates in these reports were statistically significant once sampling error was taken into account. Using statistical analysis programs developed specifically for the NCVS, all comparisons in the text were tested for significance. The primary test procedure was the Student's t-statistic, which tests the difference between two sample estimates. Unless otherwise noted, the findings described in these reports as higher, lower, or different passed a test at the 0.05 level of statistical significance (95% confidence level) or at the 0.10 level of significance (90% confidence level). Readers should reference figures and tables in these reports for testing on specific findings. Caution is required when comparing estimates not explicitly discussed in these reports.

    Readers may use the estimates and standard errors of the estimates provided in these reports to generate a confidence interval around the estimate as a measure of the margin of error. The following example illustrates how standard errors may be used to generate confidence intervals:

    Based on the 2017 NCVS, the violent victimization rate among persons age 12 or older in 2017 was 20.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons. Using the GVFs, BJS determined that the estimated victimization rate has a standard error of 1.03. A confidence interval around the estimate is generated by multiplying the standard error by ± 1.96 (the t-score of a normal, two-tailed distribution that excludes 2.5% at either end of the distribution). Therefore, the 95% confidence interval around the 20.6 estimate from 2017 is 20.6 ± (1.03 x 1.96) or (18.59 to 22.61). In other words, if BJS used the same sampling method to select different samples and computed an interval estimate for each sample, it would expect the true population parameter (rate of violent victimization) to fall within the interval estimates 95% of the time.

    For these reports, BJS also calculated a coefficient of variation (CV) for all estimates, representing the ratio of the standard error to the estimate. CVs provide another measure of reliability and a means for comparing the precision of estimates across measures with differing levels or metrics.

    The 2017 NCVS weights include a new adjustment to control household weights to independent housing unit totals available internally within the Census Bureau. This new adjustment was applied only to household weights for housing units and does not affect person weights. Historically, the household weights were controlled to independent totals of the person population. This new weighting adjustment improves upon the historical one and better aligns the number of estimated households in the NCVS with other Census household survey estimates.

    Because of this new adjustment, the 2017 NCVS household estimate is about 8% lower than the 2016 NCVS household estimate. As a result, the property crime estimate, or the number of households affected by property crime, is also about 8% lower. When making comparisons of property crime changes between 2016 and 2017, data users should compare victimization rates between the two years that are unaffected by this change in weighting adjustment. Comparisons of the number of property crime victimizations between 2016 and 2017 are not appropriate due to the change in weighting methodology. For more information on weighting in the NCVS, see Non-response and weighting adjustments section and National Crime Victimization Survey, 2016 Technical Documentation (NCJ 251442, BJS web, December 2017).

    Methodological changes to the NCVS in 2006

    Methodological changes implemented in 2006, including the decennial sample redesign that also occurred in 2016, may have affected the crime estimates for that year to such an extent that they are not comparable to estimates from other years. Evaluation of 2007 through 2015 data from the NCVS conducted by BJS and the Census Bureau found a high degree of confidence that estimates for 2007 through 2015 are consistent with and comparable to estimates for 2005 and previous years.

    NCVS revised 2016 estimates

    To permit cross-year comparisons that were inhibited by the 2016 sample redesign, BJS created a revised data file. Estimates for 2016 are based on the revised file and replace previously published estimates. For more information, see Criminal Victimization, 2016: Revised (NCJ 252121, BJS web, October 2018).

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    Publications & Products

    The following publications and products were generated by BJS using data from this collection.

    Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2018 This annual report, produced jointly by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Center for Education Statistics, presents data on school crime and safety from national surveys of students, teachers, principals, and postsecondary institutions.
      Full report (PDF 4.9M)
    Part of the Indicators of School Crime and Safety Series

    Victims of Identity Theft, 2016 Presents data on the prevalence and nature of identity theft against persons age 16 or older in 2016, including how victims discovered the crime; financial losses and other consequences.
      Summary (PDF 164K) | Full report (PDF 552K) | Data tables (Zip format 98K)
    Part of the Identity Theft Series

    Criminal Victimization, 2017 Provides 2017 National Crime Victimization Survey data on violent and property crime victimizations reported and not reported to police and the annual change in criminal victimization from 2016.
      Press Release | Summary (PDF 193K) | Full report (PDF 620K) | Data tables (Zip format 39K)
    Part of the Criminal Victimization Series

    Criminal Victimization, 2016: Revised Provides revised official estimates, which replace previously released 2016 estimates that did not permit year-to-year-comparisons.
      Press Release | Summary (PDF 208K) | Full Report (PDF 478K) | Data Tables (Zip format 28K)
    Part of the Criminal Victimization Series

    Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2017 This annual report, produced jointly by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Center for Education Statistics, presents data on school crime and safety from the perspectives of students, teachers, and principals.
      Full Report (PDF 3.09M)
    Part of the Indicators of School Crime and Safety Series

    Race and Hispanic Origin of Victims and Offenders, 2012-15 Presents estimates of violent victimization (rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault) by the race and Hispanic origin of victims and offenders during the 4-year period from 2012 through 2015.
      Press Release | Summary (PDF 190K) | Full report (PDF 557K) | ASCII file (39K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 25K)


    Repeat Violent Victimization, 2005-14 Presents national data on the prevalence of repeat violent victimization and the characteristics of repeat violence.
      Press Release | Summary (PDF 182K) | PDF (556K) | ASCII file (26K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 29K)
    Part of the Criminal Victimization: National Crime Victimization Survey Series

    Crime Against Persons with Disabilities, 2009-2015 - Statistical Tables Presents estimates of nonfatal violent crime (rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault) against persons age 12 or older with disabilities.
      Summary (PDF 197K) | PDF (1M) | ASCII file (27K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 46K)
    Part of the Crime Against People with Disabilities Series

    Hate Crime Victimization, 2004-2015 Presents National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data on hate crime victimization from 2004 to 2015.
      PowerPoint Presentation (Hate Crime Statistics, 2009 through 2017) (PDF 254K) | Press Release | Summary (PDF 189K) | PDF (773K) | ASCII file (32K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 307K)
    Part of the Hate Crime Series

    Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016 This annual report, a joint effort by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics, presents data on crime and safety at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, and principals.
      PDF (14M)
    Part of the Indicators of School Crime and Safety Series

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