Information about crime comes from two primary sources: survey responses from victims about crimes they experienced and administrative data from law enforcement agencies about crimes reported to them. Victim survey responses capture information on crimes reported to the police, as well as those crimes that were not reported. Crime data from law enforcement agencies reflect those crimes reported to and recorded by police.
The Nation's Two Crime Measures
Department of Justice agencies collect both survey and administrative data on crime.
- BJS's National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) captures incident-level data on reported and unreported crime from the victim's perspective
- FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program Summary Reporting System (SRS) collects summary-based counts of crime reported by law enforcement
Similar to many other indicators used to assess conditions in the United States, these two indicators of crime complement each other to produce a more comprehensive portrait of the nation's crime problem.
Some of the differences between SRS and NCVS are—
|Summary Reporting System||National Crime Victimization Survey|
National and state estimates, local agency reports
Data can be aggregated to county-level and federal judicial district
|Collection method||Reports by law enforcement to the FBI on a monthly basis||Each year, data are obtained from a nationally representative sample of about 240,000 persons in about 150,000 households.|
|Measures||Aggregate counts of 10 offense types reported by law enforcement||Reported and unreported crime; details about the crimes, victims, and offenders|
For more information about the UCR and the NCVS, see The Nation's Two Crime Measures.
On January 1, 2021, the SRS was retired, and the FBI UCR Program transitioned to incident-based submissions of reported crime data to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). For more information on the transition to NIBRS, see the National Crime Statistics Exchange (NCS-X) program page.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is the nation's primary source of information on criminal victimization. Each year, data are obtained from a nationally representative sample of about 240,000 persons in about 150,000 households on the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States. The NCVS collects information on nonfatal personal crimes (rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault, and personal larceny) and household property crimes (burglary, motor vehicle theft, and other theft) both reported and not reported to police. Survey respondents provide information about themselves (e.g., age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, marital status, education level, and income) and whether they experienced a victimization. For each victimization incident, the NCVS collects information about the offender (e.g., age, race and Hispanic origin, sex, and victim-offender relationship), characteristics of the crime (including time and place of occurrence, use of weapons, nature of injury, and economic consequences), whether the crime was reported to police, reasons the crime was or was not reported, and victim experiences with the criminal justice system.
The 2017 Supplemental Fraud Survey (SFS) is a supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). It is the first data collection of its kind and collects information from a nationally representative sample of persons age 18 or older on their experiences with personal financial fraud victimization.
There are two national crime series which have data on crime rates and trends. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is based upon a sample of households and includes both crimes that are reported to police and those that are not reported. The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) is based upon local police reports which are compiled by the FBI. The two data series complement each other and both are “right” in terms of measuring what they are designed to measure. Please see the report, The Nation’s Two Crime Measures (NCJ 303385, BJS web), for more information.
Terms & Definitions
An unlawful physical attack or threat of attack. Assaults may be classified as aggravated or simple. Rape, attempted rape, and sexual assaults are excluded from this category, as well as robbery and attempted robbery. The severity of assaults ranges from minor threats to nearly fatal incidents.
A crime as it affects one individual person or household. For personal crimes, the number of victimizations is equal to the number of victims involved. The number of victimizations may be greater than the number of incidents because more than one person may be victimized during an incident. Each crime against a household is assumed to involve a single victim, the affected household.