The Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey “has been undermined by the demands of conducting an increasingly expensive survey in an effectively flat-line budget,” a committee of the Naitonal Academy of Sciences said today. The panel said that the number of households queried to produce the survey has dropped from 72,000 in 1972 to 38,600 in 2005. That means that only a year-to-year change of 8 percent or more in violent crime “can be deemed statistically to be different from no change at all,” the experts said. The survey, issued annually, differs from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report primarily because it includes estimates of the many crimes unreported to law enforcement agencies.
The victimization survey should be ended or suspended if there are any further reductions in sample size, said the panel, which stressed that it was not favoring that option. It urged that Congress and the executive branch give the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics enough resources to field an adequate crime survey. “By several measures–comparison with the expenditures of foreign countries for similar measurement efforts or with the cost of crime in the United States–the [survey] is underfunded,” the panel declared. It suggested alternative ways in which the survey might be improved. The group is headed by Robert Groves of the University of Michigan Survey Research Center and University of Maryland Joint Program in Survey Methodology.