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Surveying Victims: Options for Conducting the National Crime Victimization Survey –B– Principal Findings and Recommendations of the National Research Council (1976b) Study B–1 FINDINGS The design of the NCS generally is consistent with the objective of producing data on trends and patterns of victimization for certain categories of crime. Conceptual, procedural, and managerial problems limit the potential of the NCS, but the panel considers that, given sufficient support, the problems ought to be amenable to substantial resolution in the long run. A major shift of resources to analytic and methodological research is essential in order for the NCS to yield data useful for policy formulation. This shift should be accompanied by the development of administrative mechanisms to enhance this large and complex series’ capacity for self-correction. The primary uses envisioned originally for the NCS were of a social and policy indicator nature. The panel agrees that a subsequent objective of producing operating intelligence for jurisdictions is inconsistent with the original purposes of the NCS and with the design informed by
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Surveying Victims: Options for Conducting the National Crime Victimization Survey those purposes, except insofar as operating intelligence is a by-product of understanding broad trends and patterns of victimization. B–2 RECOMMENDATIONS A substantially greater proportion of [Office of Justice Programs] resources should be allocated to delineation of product objectives, to managerial coordination, to data analysis and dissemination, and to a continuing program of methodological research and evaluation. We are concerned about the current balance between resources allocated to data collection and resources allocated to all other aspects of the victimization survey effort. The staff providing managerial and analytic support for the NCS should be expanded to include the full-time efforts of at least 30 to 40 professional employees. Without this expansion, the NCS cannot be developed to achieve its potential for practical utility. A coordinator at the Bureau of the Census should be appointed whose responsibilities would crosscut the various Census operations that support the NCS. The staff that performs NCS analysis and report-writing functions, whether LEAA employees or otherwise, should have an active role in the management of the NCS. Specifically, the analytic staff should participate in the development of objectives for substantive reports and publication schedules. Once analytic plans are formulated, the analysis staff should have autonomy in specifying tabulations to be used in support of the analysis, and it should have direct access to complete NCS data files and to data processing resources. It should be the analytic staff’s responsibility to formulate statistical or other criteria used in hypothesis testing. Finally, a feedback mechanism should be instituted through which the staff can influence decisions on the content of survey instruments, on field and code procedures, and on analytic and methodological research to be undertaken. Resources now used for the nationwide household survey and for the independent city-level household surveys should be consolidated and used for carrying out an integrated national program. The integrated effort could produce not only nationwide and regional data, but, on the same timetable, estimates for separately identifiable Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas (SMSAs) and for at least the five largest central cities within them. For some purposes, it would be practicable and perhaps useful to combine data for 2 or more years and to
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Surveying Victims: Options for Conducting the National Crime Victimization Survey show separate tabulations for a large number of cities and metropolitan areas. A review and restatement of the objectives of the commercial surveys should be conducted and data collection should be suspended, except in support of experimental and exploratory review of these objectives. Five percent of the NCS sample in the future should be available to interview in order to explore different forms and ordering of questions, and for pretesting possible new questions…. Routine NCS tabulation should include results on the risk of victimization, where the unit of analysis is the surveyed individual, and that analysis of risk should be a significant part of NCS publications on a recurring basis. If the NCS data are coded and tabulated so as to yield a cumulative count of personal and household victim experiences of all surveyed respondents, analyses of multiple victimization, including events now excluded as “series” incidents, could and should be routine components of official publications. A major methodological effort on optimum field and survey design for the NCS should be undertaken. Toward this goal, high priority should be given to research on the best combination of reference period, frequency of interview at an address, length of retention in the sample, and bounding rules. Part of the recommended research in this area should be a new reverse record check study in order to assess: (a) differential degrees of reporting for different types of victimizations and different classes of respondents, (b) problems of telescoping and decay, and (c) biases in the misreporting of facts. Local interest in victimization patterns should be addressed through LEAA-Census joint development of a manual of procedures for conducting local area victimization surveys. The federal government should produce reports on the NCS that contain detailed analyses of patterns and trends of victimization so as to allow law enforcement personnel, the public, and policymakers to draw inferences that might be applicable to the issues with which they are concerned. Informing the public and their policymakers of the distribution and modifiability of risk should be the primary objective of the NCS. SOURCE: National Research Council (1976b:3–5).
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