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Surveying Victims: Options for Conducting the National Crime Victimization Survey
Capability to readily provide information on emerging crime problems;
Capability to provide small-domain and subnational data of direct interest to states or localities; and
Timeliness of resultant data (by which we mean that policy-relevant data can be collected and tabulated sufficiently quickly as to assess emerging trends and inform policy responses).
This chapter summarizes the relationships between the goals of the NCVS, the design of the survey, and the implications of various designs in terms of cost, error, and utility. We first consider alterations to the current NCVS design that could be put in place quickly for the purpose of saving money, while more substantial changes in design are assessed and implemented (Section 4–A). We then consider long-term changes in the form of the NCVS (4–B), outlining a set of survey design packages, some representing relatively minor changes to the current design and others overhauling the basic approach to measuring victimization. Section 4–C describes the trade-offs in cost, error, and utility associated with various design features and presents our general assessments.
Any thoroughgoing redesign of the NCVS will require research and development work. At the same time, the survey is in dire straits with respect to funding. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has managed this problem by making short-term changes in the survey that will allow it to continue while the panel does its work and while some research and development work is done. These changes are designed to reduce cost with the most minimal disruption to the survey. However, most have been implemented with no empirical tests of their likely impact, a very risky survey management strategy. In this section, we review a number of cost reduction strategies and assess their implications for the cost, error, and utility of the survey. Some of these strategies have been introduced into the survey and others have not.
Table 4-1 describes some short-term changes that might be carried out in order to reduce NCVS costs (some of which are already planned for implementation in 2007 as part of the most recent cost-saving efforts by BJS). One of these changes—reduction in sample size—has been the alternative of most frequent resort over the history of the NCVS. The table does not include a change in the reference period of the NCVS (i.e., from 6 to 12 months) even though—as we discuss in Section 4–C.1—we favor it as an alternative to continuing to reduce the NCVS sample size.