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Ensuring the Quality, Credibility, and Relevance of U.S. Justice Statistics
We close the chapter in Section 3–F with general assessments of BJS’s portfolio and the structure of BJS collections within that portfolio.
The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967) that developed the justice system “funnel” model we use as a framework in this report (Section 2–A) and recommended the creation of what would become BJS also pioneered a new approach to studying crime. The commission sponsored the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) to survey the members of 10,000 households on their experiences as victims of crime and violence, and the commission then compared the results to the reported-to-police estimates from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. This prototype National Survey of Criminal Victims demonstrated to the commission that “for the Nation as a whole there is far more crime than ever is reported” (President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, 1967:v):
Burglaries occur about three times more often than they are reported to police. Aggravated assaults and larcenies over $50 occur twice as often as they are reported. There are 50 percent more robberies than reported. In some areas, only one-tenth of the total number of certain kinds of crimes are reported to the police.
As a consequence of the commission’s report, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 specifically mandated the new Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) to “collect, evaluate, publish, and disseminate statistics and other information on the condition and progress of law enforcement in the several States” (P.L. 93-83 § 515(b); see also U.S. Census Bureau, 2003:A1-5). This data-gathering authority was invoked to begin pilot work and implementation of what would become the National Crime Survey; later, at the culmination of an extensive redesign process, this survey was renamed the National Crime Victimization Survey. Drawn from an original mandate to study the progress of law enforcement, the NCVS was designed to do so by asking respondents about victimization incidents generally, whether or not they were reported to authorities. Accordingly, the NCVS presented the unique ability to shed light on the “dark figure of crime”—the phrase coined by Biderman and Reiss (1967) to describe criminal incidents that are not reported to police.
Table 3-2 shows the years of collection of the NCVS and, more specifically, the topic supplements to the NCVS. As we will discuss, there are some instances in which content from a supplement was subsequently integrated into the core NCVS; hence, the table’s suggestion that a supplement was not repeated in later years does not necessarily mean that the topic was dropped.