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NCVS Instrument Redesign


Overview of the NCVS Instrument Redesign 

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) last redesigned the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) in 1992. Much has changed since that time, both in the nature of crime and in the public’s willingness to participate in surveys. As such, BJS initiated a multiyear effort to improve the efficiency, reliability, and utility of the NCVS. The effort had three main goals:

  • modernize the organization and content of the NCVS instrument
  • increase the quality of information collected and efficiency of the instrument flow
  • improve the measurement and classification of crime.

BJS is redesigning the entire survey instrument, which includes a household roster, victimization screener, and detailed crime incident report (CIR). During the research and testing phase of the redesign effort, BJS tested the revised instrument using multiple rounds of interviews with respondents that focused on comprehension of the questions and navigation through the instrument. BJS also tested data collection field procedures through a small-scale pilot test. The results of the testing informed the design of a new NCVS instrument that was assessed through a large-scale national field test. For additional information, see National Crime Victimization Survey Redesign Field Test Topline Report: Comparing Condition 1 and Condition 2 by Interleaving Treatment.

Highlights of the New NCVS Survey Instrument

The new NCVS instrument retains the two-stage measurement approach of the current instrument for the screening and classification of criminal victimization. It is more conversational in style and promotes recall by asking respondents to consider each subset of examples or probes separately. The new instrument also improves measurement of victimization and incident characteristics. For additional information, see Update on the NCVS Instrument Redesign.

Victimization screener updates include

  • separating screening probes into shorter examples with yes/no responses in each screener series
  • revising probe contents
  • using more behaviorally specific language and expanding the screening probes for rape or sexual assault
  • adding vandalism as a crime screener.

Crime incident report updates include

  • improving the use of victimization screener responses to drive questions asked in the CIR
  • revising items to improve measurement of key NCVS concepts (i.e., incident location and presence of respondent during incident)
  • increasing information collected about rape or sexual assault incidents
  • expanding measures of victim experiences, including use of victim services, satisfaction with police response, and consequences of victimization.

The new instrument will also include two new periodic modules:

  • The Police Performance module measures the types of contact with police and opinions about police performance.
  • The Community Safety module measures indicators of public perceptions of community issues related to crime and neighborhood safety.
Flow of the New NCVS Instrument


The NCVS Instrument Redesign Timeline

BJS recently completed Phase 1 – Research and Testing, which culminated in the assessment of the redesigned instrument through a large-scale national field test. BJS, in collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau, which carries out the NCVS data collection, will next initiate Phase 2 – Implementation.

The implementation phase includes instrument programming, instrument testing, and a small-scale pilot test to ensure that all data collection processes work correctly and meet statistical standards. To maintain the ability to report criminal victimization data during the phase-in of the new NCVS instrument, BJS will employ a split-sample design. For more information, see Update on the NCVS Instrument Redesign: Operational Pilot Test and Split Sample. In 2024, BJS plans to split the NCVS sample with the goal of having a fully redesigned NCVS instrument in place by January 2025. In 2026, BJS is scheduled to update the NCVS sample design to reflect changes in the U.S. population based on the 2020 decennial census. Additional updates on the progress of the instrument redesign will be added on this page throughout the implementation phase. 

NCVS instrument redesign timeline

Image of the 2023 update to the NCVS Instrument Redesign Timeline

Ongoing Research

Under its broader NCVS Redesign Research and Development Program, BJS conducted additional research to support the instrument redesign work. This research included two testing efforts designed to (1) improve the measurement of hate crime in the NCVS and (2) enhance juveniles’ participation in the NCVS and improve its measurement of their experiences with victimization. Findings from this research and additional assessment of the redesign instrument through a large-scale national field test informed BJS’s efforts to finalize a new core survey instrument. 

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Date Created: March 1, 2022