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Home | Victims | Research and Development | NCVS Redesign: Survey Instrument Redesign
NCVS Redesign: Survey Instrument Redesign
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The NCVS Instrument Redesign and Testing Project is a major multi-year effort to overhaul the existing survey instrument. The overarching objective of the project is to provide scientific and technical support for the redesign and testing of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) roster control card, crime screener (NCVS-1), and crime incident (NCVS-2) instruments in support of BJS’s efforts related to increasing the efficiency, reliability, and utility of the NCVS. Through the project, BJS aims to evaluate and modernize the organization and content of the NCVS; improve the efficiency of the instruments and the current core-supplement design; and develop a procedure for introducing routine improvements to the survey in order to capture emerging crime types and time-relevant topics.

One of the first steps in the project was a comprehensive assessment of the instrument to determine which survey items are being used and how, which survey items are problematic in their language and placement, and where there are gaps in the content of the instrument. The initial assessment provided a better understanding of the substantive and procedural issues with the instrument and helped to identify areas where the content could be improved to enhance current knowledge of victimization and its correlates.

Through the initial assessment work, several major areas in need of modernization became apparent. The first involves enhancing the socio-demographic information collected about respondents to better address policy-relevant questions about victimization. The types of socio-demographic variables being considered for inclusion are veteran status, citizenship, sexual orientation, and expanded information about cognitive and physical disabilities. Because these measures have been identified in other research as correlates of victimization, their inclusion in the NCVS will allow researchers to better understand the relationship between these variables and experiences with criminal victimization.  

Another area of focus is on improving the measurement of and increasing the number of crime types covered by the survey. The current NCVS captures rape and sexual assault, robbery, physical assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft through the core survey instrument and uses routine supplements to collect information on other crime types, such as identity theft and stalking. However, the rates of victimization for these supplemental crimes are not incorporated into the overall victimization rates. Other growing crimes, such as financial fraud, are not measured by the survey at all. One of the goals of the redesign is to expand the crime screener to incorporate a broader range of crimes, including some that are not typically reported through official police statistics, such as fraud. Additional efforts are focused on improving the measurement of highly sensitive crimes, such as rape and sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The anticipated changes to and improvement of the types of crimes measured by the NCVS may require changes to the survey methodology to ensure that the information collected is accurate and reliable. Through the NCVS redesign project, BJS is examining the feasibility of using self-administered approaches to obtaining responses to at least the most sensitive of the questions.  

Other areas of focus involve the addition of noncrime questions to address issues related to fear of crime, perceptions of disorder in the neighborhood, and perceptions of police performance, as well as an expansion of the information collected about formal and informal help-seeking behavior and victim assistance.