Using Victim & Self-Report Surveys for Crime Data

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  • 0:01 Victim & Self-Report Surveys
  • 1:23 Victim & Self-Report…
  • 2:19 Victimization Profiles
  • 5:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Eric Keith

Dr. Keith holds a PhD in Criminology and has instructed adult and collegiate learners in theory, research, and application of the social sciences.

Victim and self-report surveys provide more detailed representations of crime rates, victim and offender demographics, as well as the situations in which crimes occur, like time of the day and location. This data clarifies the pervasiveness of crime.

Victim & Self-Report Surveys

Are you more or less likely to be a victim of crime? What situations increase the risk of victimization? How can we answer these questions? The data and statistics collected from victim and self-report surveys provide a more representative view of crime rates, the features of crime, along with descriptions of victims and offenders.

Victim surveys, represented most notably by the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), and self-report surveys are tests utilized to provide a more accurate and clear picture of crime in the United States. Traditional crime reports rely on police reports and records which underestimate and provide a lack of detail or perspective on the nature of crimes and victimization. Self-report surveys are generally those types of surveys in which participants are given the opportunity to provide their own individual information in response to survey questions without prompts from researchers. By going directly to individuals within the population, more accurate data on crime rates and trends is collected. This is based on the fact that crime reports don't include crimes that were never reported to the police. Furthermore, crime reports don't collect some important factors about the circumstances of crimes or some demographic information about victims of crimes.

Victim & Self-Report Survey Data

In order to illustrate how crime rates can be underestimated by traditional crime reports, the NCVS indicated that from 2006 to 2010, more than half of all violent crimes went unreported to police. In 2015 also, there was a significant percentage of crimes that went unreported to the police.

Percentages of crimes reported and not reported

Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization 2015

Without self-report victim surveys like the NCVS, accurate representations of the pervasiveness of crimes would go under-reported. The same premise holds true for offenders. Specifically, the National Youth Survey (NYS) is one of the more utilized self-report surveys which focuses on juvenile crimes. Without this survey, the depth of juvenile crimes would go unrecognized. For example, '85-90%' of those surveyed on average through self-report surveys indicate they have engaged in criminal activities but have not been caught.

Victimization Profiles

To learn if you are more or less likely to be a victim of crime, consider these facts.

Imagine you're a victim of crime. Completing a victim or self-report survey allows you to provide statistics, including your gender, age, income, education level, ethnicity, marital status, home-ownership, and residence location. Data is collected on the impact of the crime against you, such as injuries sustained, medical care received, cost of care, and loss of wages. Data is also collected on your situation pertaining to the crime, like crime location (such as home, work, or school), time of day, the month, and the type of property lost. In addition, information about whether other individuals were present during the crime, whether weapons were used by your or the offender, or any defensive actions you employed. Detailed information about the offender is collected, such as whether drugs or alcohol were present, any offender-victim relationship, or any biased motivations that led to the offense, such as the prejudices that motivate hate crimes.

These surveys highlight the victimization patterns within sub-groups of the population, the locations of crimes, and aspects of crime that most often occur. In the analysis of your survey data, you may fall into one of the following prevalent trends:

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