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Home | Victims | Research and Development | NCVS Redesign: Subnational
NCVS Redesign: Subnational
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Though the NCVS was originally designed to provide national level estimates of criminal victimization, BJS has recognized an increasing need for victimization data at the state and local levels. The three major reviews of the NCVS program (Penick and Owens, 1976; Biderman et al., 1986; Groves and Cork, 2008) all point to the demand local criminal justice administrators have for empirical information to shape policy.

Subnational estimates are of value to federal and nonfederal data users and stakeholders. Federal stakeholders that currently allocate funding or resources for crime victims and crime prevention based on official police crime estimates could use the subnational victimization estimates to understand how the allocation of funding would change when unreported crime is taken into account. Policymakers could use these estimates to examine state and local variations in crime reported and not reported to police and make comparisons among states and other localities. Law enforcement officials could use the findings to begin to understand differences in rates of crime and reporting to police across places. The data could also be used in conjunction with official police statistics to begin to understand the correlation between the NCVS and official police reports of crime. In addition to subnational victimization estimates, police perception and community safety measures are also of interest to local areas in their efforts to fight crime.

Research demonstrated that the NCVS could be enhanced to produce several types of subnational estimates (NCVS Task 4 Report: Summary of Options Relating to Local Area Estimation). Since 2012, BJS has developed multiple approaches for obtaining subnational NCVS estimates, including (1) boosting the sample size in large states to obtain direct state-level estimates, (2) modeling state-level estimates using existing sample and external sources of data, and (3) creating generic areas with geocoded identifiers.

Direct sample boosts
Based on preliminary findings from the pilot boost, from 2016 to 2018, BJS boosted the NCVS core sample in 22 states to enable production of state-level estimates of victimization based on three-year rolling averages. The decision to go to 22 states was based on the sample allocation and the cost associated with boosting the state sample enough to get sufficient precision and representative estimates. The 22 states account for 79% of the total U.S. population and approximately 80% of violent crime reported in the FBI's Part 1 Uniform Crime Reports.

Given this pioneer effort, BJS is currently working to carefully examine the quality of these initial estimates.

Companion Study Pilot—NCVS Local-Area Crime Survey
The primary goal of this research study was to provide information about people's experiences with crime at the local level. The American Crime Survey research project was used to help develop and evaluate a cost effective supplement to the core NCVS. These neighborhood data will help BJS and law enforcement better understand the counts and rates of crime at the local level. The American Crime Survey included a mail survey to residents in the 40 largest Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSA) requesting information about experiences with victimization and perceptions of neighborhood safety and police performance.

Model based estimates
This project focuses on the feasibility of generating indirect or model-based estimates of victimization for all 50 states, DC, and large metropolitan areas. The development of a model for generating small-area estimates uses the existing NCVS sample along with auxiliary data from the American Community Survey and the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports.

Generic areas

As part of the subnational program, BJS did some work to develop generic area typologies based on various geographic, social, economic, or demographic characteristics. These generic areas will then represent all places that are similar to each other based on the characteristics of interest. Data users will be able to identify the generic area with which they are best aligned and benchmark themselves against similar and different types of places from that perspective.

The majority of generic area typologies will have to be developed using the restricted-use files. Public-use files contain several subnational geographic identifiers that could be combined to create geographic generic area typologies. These subnational geographic identifiers include region, population size, and urbanicity.

NCVS geocoded restricted-use data files

Access to the NCVS, geocoded restricted-use data files are made available through the Census Bureau’s Federal Statistical Research Data Centers (RDC). Before researchers can access NCVS microdata, a research proposal must be submitted and approved by BJS and the Census Bureau. For more information on the proposal process, see Center for Economic Studies (CES).

Related documents

  • Biderman, A.D., Cantor, D., Lynch, J.P., and Martin, E. (1986). Final Report of Research and Development for the Redesign of the National Crime Survey. Prepared for the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, DC: Bureau of Social Science Research.
  • Groves, R.M. and Cork, D.L. (2008). Surveying Victims: Options for Conducting the National Crime Victimization Survey. Panel to Review the Programs of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Research Council, Committee on National Statistics and Committee on Law and Justice, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
  • Penick, B.K.E. and Owens, M.E.B. (1976). Surveying Crime. Panel for the Evaluation of Crime Surveys, Committee on National Statistics, Academy of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.

Grants-related Publications and Products

These reports are available in PDF format: