Information about crime comes from two primary sources: survey responses from victims about crimes they experienced and administrative data from law enforcement agencies about crimes reported to them. Victim survey responses capture information on crimes reported to the police, as well as those crimes that were not reported. Crime data from law enforcement agencies reflect those crimes reported to and recorded by police.
The Nation's Two Crime Measures
Department of Justice agencies collect both survey and administrative data on crime.
- BJS's National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) captures incident-level data on reported and unreported crime from the victim's perspective
- FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program Summary Reporting System (SRS) collects summary-based counts of crime reported by law enforcement
Similar to many other indicators used to assess conditions in the United States, these two indicators of crime complement each other to produce a more comprehensive portrait of the nation's crime problem.
Some of the differences between SRS and NCVS are—
|Summary Reporting System||National Crime Victimization Survey|
National and state estimates, local agency reports
Data can be aggregated to county-level and federal judicial district
|Collection method||Reports by law enforcement to the FBI on a monthly basis||Each year, data are obtained from a nationally representative sample of about 240,000 persons in about 150,000 households.|
|Measures||Aggregate counts of 10 offense types reported by law enforcement||Reported and unreported crime; details about the crimes, victims, and offenders|
For more information about the UCR and the NCVS, see The Nation's Two Crime Measures.
On January 1, 2021, the SRS was retired, and the FBI UCR Program transitioned to incident-based submissions of reported crime data to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). For more information on the transition to NIBRS, see the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) program page and the National Crime Statistics Exchange (NCS-X) program page.
A victimization is a single victim or household that experiences a criminal incident. Criminal incidents or crimes are distinguished from victimizations in that one criminal incident may have multiple victims or victimizations. For violent crimes (rape/sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault) and for personal theft/larceny, the count of victimizations is the number of individuals who experienced a violent crime. For crimes against households (burglary, trespassing, other theft, and motor vehicle theft), each household affected by a crime is counted as a single victimization.
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 persons in about 150,000 households on the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States. The NCVS collects information on nonfatal personal crimes (rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault, and personal larceny) and household property crimes (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 (including 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 2017 Supplemental Fraud Survey (SFS) is a supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). It is the first data collection of its kind and collects information from a nationally representative sample of persons age 18 or older on their experiences with personal financial fraud victimization.
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