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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
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Home  | Terms & Definitions: Victims
Terms & Definitions: Victims

Age category
The appropriate age category is determined by the respondent's age on the last day of the month preceding the interview.

Aggravated assault
An attack or attempted attack with a weapon, regardless of whether an injury occurred, and an attack without a weapon when serious injury results.

With injury - An attack without a weapon when serious injury results or an attack with a weapon involving any injury. Serious injury includes broken bones, lost teeth, internal injuries, loss of consciousness, and any unspecified injury requiring two or more days of hospitalization.

Threatened with a weapon - Threat or attempted attack by an offender armed with a gun, knife, or other object used as a weapon that does not result in victim injury.

Annual household income
The total household income for the 12 months preceding the interview. Includes wages, salaries, net income from businesses or farms, pensions, interest, dividends, rent, and any other source of monetary income of the head of household and all household members.

An unlawful physical attack or threat of attack. Assaults may be classified as aggravated or simple. Rape, attempted rape, and sexual assaults are excluded from this category, as well as robbery and attempted robbery. The severity of assaults ranges from minor threats to nearly fatal incidents.

Includes unlawful or forcible entry or attempted entry of places, including a permanent residence, other residence (e.g., a hotel room or vacation residence), or other structure (e.g., a garage or shed). Includes victimizations where the offender stole, attempted to steal, or did not attempt to steal. Does not include trespassing on land.

Burglary - Includes only crimes where the offender committed or attempted a theft.

Trespassing - Includes crimes where the offender did not commit or attempt a theft. Does not include trespassing on land.

Collection year
The set of victimizations reported to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) in interviews conducted during the same calendar year. This set may include victimizations that occurred in the previous calendar year, due to the retrospective nature of the NCVS interview. Collection year data are used in tables beginning in 1996. See "Data year."

Commercial crimes
Crimes against commercial establishments of any type are not included in the survey. Commercial establishments include stores, restaurants, businesses, service stations, medical offices or hospitals, or other similar establishments. For victimizations occurring in commercial establishments, the crime is included or not included depending on whether the survey respondent was threatened or harmed in some way or personal property was taken.

Crime classification
Victimizations and incidents are classified based on detailed characteristics of the event provided by the respondent. Neither victims nor interviewers classify crimes at the time of interview. During data processing, a computer program classifies each event into one type of crime, based on the entries on a number of items on the survey questionnaire. This ensures that similar events will be classified using a standard procedure. The glossary definition for each crime indicates the major characteristics required to be so classified. If an event can be classified as more than one type of crime, a hierarchy is used that classifies the crime according to the most serious event that occurred. The hierarchy from highest to lowest is rape, sexual assault, robbery, assault, burglary/trespassing, motor-vehicle theft, and theft.

Data year
The set of victimizations reported to NCVS, all of which occurred within the same calendar year. For all years prior to 1996, Criminal Victimization in the United States tables are based on data year. Beginning in 1996, tables are based on collection year. See "Collection Year."

A classification based on Hispanic culture and origin, regardless of race. Persons are asked directly if they are Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino before being asked about their racial category.

Hate crime victimization
Refers to a single victim or household that experienced a criminal incident believed by the victim to be motivated by prejudice based on race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. BJS's National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) Hate Crime Statistics Program are the principal sources of annual information on hate crime in the United States and use the definition of hate crime provided in the Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C. ยง 534).

Head of household
A classification that defines one and only one person in each housing unit as the head. Head of household implies that the person rents or owns (or is in the process of buying) the housing unit. The head of household must be at least age 18, unless all members of the household are under age 18 or the head is married to someone age 18 or older.

A person who describes himself or herself as Mexican American, Chicano, Mexican, Mexicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American, South American, or from some other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

A person or group of people meeting either of the following criteria: (1) people whose usual place of residence is the same housing unit, even if they are temporarily absent, or (2) people staying in a housing unit who have no usual place of residence elsewhere.

Identity theft
Includes one or more of three types of incidents: (1) unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account, (2) unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new account, or (3) misuse of personal information for a fraudulent purpose. Person level identity theft is captured in the Identity Theft Supplement (ITS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Household level identity theft is captured by the main NCVS.

A specific criminal act involving one or more victims and offenders. For example, if two people are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as two robbery victimizations but only one robbery incident.

The unlawful taking of property other than a motor vehicle from the possession of another, by stealth, without force or deceit. Includes pocket picking, nonforcible purse snatching, shoplifting, and thefts from motor vehicles. Excludes receiving and/or reselling stolen property (fencing) and thefts through fraud or deceit.

Marital status
Every person is assigned to one of the following classifications: (1) married, which includes persons in common-law unions and those who are currently living apart for reasons other than marital discord (e.g., employment or military service); (2) separated or divorced, which includes married persons who are legally separated and those who are not living together because of marital discord; (3) widowed; and (4) never married, which includes persons whose marriages have been annulled and those who are living together and not in a common-law union.

Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defines this as a population nucleus of 50,000 or more, generally consisting of a city and its immediate suburbs, along with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with the nucleus. MSA's are designated by counties, the smallest geographic units for which a wide range of statistical data can be attained. However, in New England, MSA's are designated by cities and towns since these subcounty units are of great local significance and considerable data is available for them. Currently, an area is defined as an MSA if it meets one of two standards: (1) a city has a population of at least 50,000, or (2) the Census Bureau defines an urbanized area of at least 50,000 people with a total metropolitan population of at least 100,000 (or 75,000 in New England). The Census Bureau's definition of urbanized areas, data on commuting to work, and the strength of the economic and social ties between the surrounding counties and the central city determine which counties not containing a main city are included in an MSA. For New England, MSA's are determined by a core area and related cities and towns, not counties. An MSA may contain more than one city of 50,000 and may cross state lines.

Metropolitan area
See "Metropolitan Statistical Area."

Motor vehicle
An automobile, truck, motorcycle, or any other motorized vehicle legally allowed on public roads and highways.

Motor-vehicle theft
Stealing or unauthorized taking of a motor vehicle, including attempted thefts.

Completed motor vehicle theft - The successful taking of a vehicle by an unauthorized person.

Attempted motor vehicle theft - The unsuccessful attempt by an unauthorized person to take a vehicle.

Multiple offenders
Two or more persons inflicting some direct harm to a victim. The victim-offender relationship is determined by the offender with the closest relationship to the victim. The following list ranks the different relationships from closest to most distant: spouse, former spouse, parent, child, other relative, nonrelative well known person, casual acquaintance, or stranger. See "Nonstranger" and "Stranger."

Persons who report their culture or origin as something other than "Hispanic" as defined above. This distinction is made regardless of race.

A classification of a crime victim's relationship to the offender. An offender who is either related to, well known to, or casually acquainted with the victim is a nonstranger. For crimes with more than one offender, if any of the offenders are nonstrangers, then the group of offenders as a whole is classified as nonstranger. This category only applies to crimes that involve contact between the victim and the offender; the distinction is not made for crimes of theft because victims of this offense rarely see the offenders.

The perpetrator of a crime. This term usually applies to crimes involving contact between the victim and the offender.

A crime. When referring to personal crimes, the term can be used to refer to both victimizations and incidents.

Personal crimes
Rape, sexual assault, personal robbery, assault, purse snatching, and pocket picking. This category includes both attempted and completed crimes.

Place of occurrence of crime
The location at which a crime occurred, as specified by the victim. Survey measures of crimes occurring in commercial establishments, in restaurants, in nightclubs, on public transportation, and at other similar places include only those crimes involving NCVS measured crimes against persons, not the establishments. Crimes against commercial establishments and other places are not measured by the survey.

Prevalence rate
Number of persons or households per 1,000 who experienced at least one victimization during the year.

Property crime
Burglary/trespassing, motor-vehicle theft, and theft. This category includes both attempted and completed crimes.

Purse snatching/pick-pocketing
Theft or attempted theft of property or cash directly from the victim by stealth, without force or threat of force.

For the National Crime Victimization Survey, respondents self identify with one or more racial categories. Racial categories defined by the Office of Management and Budget are American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; black or African American; Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; and white. The race of the head of household is used in determining the race of the household for computing household crime demographics.

Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion and physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the offender(s). This category also includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object, such as a bottle. Includes attempted rape, male and female victims, and both heterosexual and same sex rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.

The states have been divided into four groups or census regions: Midwest - Includes the 12 states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Northeast - Includes the 9 states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. South - Includes the District of Columbia and the 16 states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. West - Includes the 13 states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Completed or attempted theft, directly from a person, of property or cash by force or threat of force, with or without a weapon, and with or without injury.

Completed/property taken - The successful taking of property from a person by force or threat of force, with or without a weapon, and with or without injury.

Completed with injury - The successful taking of property from a person, accompanied by an attack, with or without a weapon, resulting in injury.

Completed without injury - The successful taking of property from a person by force or threat of force, with or without a weapon, but not resulting in injury.

Attempted to take property - The attempt to take property from a person by force or threat of force without success, with or without a weapon, and with or without injury.

Attempted without injury - The attempt to take property from a person by force or threat of force without success, with or without a weapon, but not resulting in injury.

Attempted with injury - The attempt to take property from a person without success, accompanied by an attack, with or without a weapon, resulting in injury.

Rural area
A place not located inside the Metropolitan Statistical Area. This category includes a variety of localities, ranging from sparsely populated rural areas to cities with populations fewer than 50,000.

The set of housing units selected by the U.S. Census Bureau to be interviewed for the survey. All occupants of the household age 12 or older are interviewed. See report methodologies for sample inclusions and exclusions.

Six or more similar but separate events that the respondent is unable to describe separately in detail to an interviewer. See Methods for Counting High-Frequency Repeat Victimizations in the National Crime Victimization Survey for more information on the use of series victimizations.

Sexual assault
A wide range of victimizations, separate from rape or attempted rape. These crimes include attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. Sexual assault also includes verbal threats.

Simple assault
Attack without a weapon resulting either in no injury, minor injury (e.g., bruises, black eyes, cuts, scratches, or swelling), or an undetermined injury requiring fewer than two days of hospitalization. Also includes attempted assault without a weapon.

With minor injury - An attack without a weapon resulting in injuries such as bruises, black eyes, cuts, or an undetermined injury requiring fewer than two days of hospitalization.

Without injury - An attempted assault without a weapon but not resulting in injury.

A classification of the victim's relationship to the offender for crimes involving direct contact between the two. Incidents are classified as involving strangers if the victim identifies the offender as a stranger, did not see or recognize the offender, or knew the offender only by sight. Crimes involving multiple offenders are classified as involving nonstrangers if any of the offenders was a nonstranger. Because victims of theft without contact rarely see the offender, no distinction is made between strangers and nonstrangers for the crime.

Suburban areas
A county or counties containing a central city, plus any contiguous counties that are linked socially and economically to the central city. On data tables, suburban areas are categorized as those portions of metropolitan areas situated "outside central cities."

The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) recognizes two forms of household tenancy: (1) owned, which includes dwellings that are mortgaged, and (2) rented, which includes rent free quarters belonging to a party other than the occupants and situations where rental payments are in kind or services.

Completed or attempted theft of property or cash without personal contact. Incidents involving theft of property from within the sample household are classified as theft if the offender has a legal right to be in the house (e.g., a maid, delivery person, or guest). If the offender has no legal right to be in the house, the incident is classified as a burglary.

Completed theft - To successfully take without permission property or cash without personal contact between the victim and offender.

Attempted theft - To unsuccessfully attempt to take property or cash without personal contact.

Urban areas
The largest city (or grouping of cities) in a Metropolitan Statistical Area. See "Metropolitan Statistical Area."

The recipient of a criminal act, usually used in relation to personal crimes, but also applicable to households.

A crime as it affects one individual person or household. For personal crimes, the number of victimizations is equal to the number of victims involved. The number of victimizations may be greater than the number of incidents because more than one person may be victimized during an incident. Each crime against a household is assumed to involve a single victim, the affected household.

Victimization rate
Number of victimizations per 1,000 persons or households that occurred during the year.

To commit a crime against a person or household.

Violence, crimes of
Rape, sexual assault, personal robbery, or assault. This category includes both attempted and completed crimes. It does not include purse snatching and pocket picking. Murder is not measured by the National Crime Victimization Survey because of an inability to question the victim.

Completed violence - The sum of all completed rapes, sexual assaults, robberies, and assaults. See individual crime types for definitions of completed crimes.

Attempted/threatened violence - The unsuccessful attempt of rape, sexual assault, personal robbery, or assault. Includes attempted attacks or sexual assaults by means of verbal threats. See individual crime types for definitions of attempted crimes.

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