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Substantive Contributions of Victimization Surveys

Two decades of victimization research have contributed substantially to the criminological research base. Among the core findings of the National Crime Survey (NCS) are that the bulk of events uncovered by the surveys are relatively trivial, that criminal victimization of the types measured is relatively rare, and that there is a large amount of repeat victimization. Despite methodological differences between the NCS and the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), comparisons can be made about the basic correlates of crime-differences among groups, times, and places. Both data sources show that the likelihood of crime occurring is not uniformly distributed by time or place. The NCS data indicate that robbery and assault occur disproportionately during the evening and at nighttime. Robbery happens more often on the streets or in other public places than at home. Rates of violent personal crime and household crime are generally highest in the central city. In addition, the city-level NCS data show that the majority of personal victimizations involve strangers as offenders. Rates of personal victimization are not evenly distributed throughout the population. They are generally higher for males than for females and higher for the young than for the elderly. Nonwhites have higher rates of robbery and personal larceny with contact than do whites, regardless of age. The victimization of married persons is less than that for persons who have never been married or who are divorced or separated. Victim reports about offenders closely parallel official reports with respect to age, sex, and race. For example, both data sources are in agreement that young males, particularly black males, have the highest rates of offending. Differences between NCS and UCR counts occur for some offenses, particularly assault, and in some crime rate trends. The data indicate that the rates of most crimes measured by the NCS remained relatively stable between the early 1970s and the early 1980s, while UCR data indicate substantial increases during the 1970s and a decline about 1980. People's routine daily activities, or life-styles, may be strongly related to their risks of criminal victimization. Some life-styles seem to provide more opportunity for victimization.