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What are the pros and cons of the National Crime Victimization Survey?

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  • The NCVS provides data on unreported crimes. Many crimes, especially sex crimes, are not reported to the police, so the NCVS serves a useful purpose in providing valuable information on a number of serious crimes that would otherwise not be available.
  • The information provided by the NCVS includes a wide range of criminal victimization variables such as race, gender, and ethnicity. This allows policymakers to be more responsive to the needs of marginalized groups in the formulation of criminal justice policy.


  • The National Crime Victim Survey, as the name implies, deals with crime at the national level. This means that it is unable to give an accurate estimation of crime at the state- or county-level. As crime levels tend to be much higher in urban areas, this is a major drawback.
  • The NCVS doesn't deal with the victimization of those aged 11 and under. The exclusion of young children from the survey distorts its findings, as an alarmingly high proportion of crime victims, especially in urban areas, come from this particular age group.
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The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) provides authorities with information about crimes that have been committed—whether or not these crimes were reported to the police.

On a national level, this could help police to stay abreast of criminal trends and implement strategies that lower the occurrences of those particular crimes in future.

The NCVS also collects data about people's experiences with the criminal justice system in the aftermath of being a victim of crime. This helps the authorities to understand where their shortcomings are, and how they can serve people better.

In terms of cons, I can foresee two areas where the NCVS could become problematic. The first is the lack of data about murders. With murder arguably being the most serious crime that there is, this seems to be a significant shortcoming.

Secondly serious crimes have long-term effects on victims, and completing this survey could have unintended but negative psychological ramifications.

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Each year, the US Census Bureau collects data from a nationally representative sample of US households for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). This data collection is known as the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The purpose of the survey is to gather measurable data about the prevalence and victims of nonfatal personal crimes, including property crimes, robbery, rape, and assaults.

The primary pro, or advantage, of the National Crime Victimization Survey is that it provides data about both reported and unreported crimes. This is important because other crime data, such as the data collected from law enforcement agencies through the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) program, focuses only on reported crimes. The National Crime Victimization Survey helps law enforcement and policy makers understand how many crimes are not reported as well as the reasons why some crimes go unreported.

Another major pro of the National Crime Victimization Survey is that it focuses on victims. This helps everyone understand the characteristics of victims, circumstances surrounding victimization, and consequences for crime victims. Survey respondents also have an opportunity to describe the person who committed the crime, which helps law enforcement create offender profiles.

A con, or disadvantage, of the National Crime Victimization Survey is that all respondents are over the age of 12. This means that data is not collected on any victims who are under that age threshold. Certain crimes are also left out of the survey. For example, data is not collected for crimes involving murder.

Other cons of the National Crime Victimization Survey include those associated with data collection methods. Critics of the survey suggest that the questionnaire contains terms that could be misinterpreted by the respondent. For example, some respondents may not fully understand what is meant by terms like "rape" or "sexual assault." There are also concerns about National Crime Victimization Survey data collection protocols, which may not provide enough privacy for victims, particularly for victims who live in the same household as the offender.

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