Data on Violence and Crime

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It is axiomatic that reliable and valid surveys on violence, offending, and

victimization are critical to an understanding of violence and crime in the

1See, for example, Annest and Mercey (1998); Biderman and Lynch (1991); Maltz (1999);

MacKenzie et al. (1990); Jarvis (1992); Wiersema et al. (2000); and Riedel (1999). The National

Opinion Research Center (NORC) produces an ongoing series of methodological reports

on the GSS, covering topics ranging from item order and wording, to nonresponse

errors, and hundreds of other methodological topics. The reports are available directly from

the NORC and are listed on http://www.icpsr.umich.edu:8080/GSS under “GSS Methodological

Reports.”

United States and for any assessment of the quality of activities and programs

aimed at reducing violence (National Research Council, 2003). Detailed data

on firearm-related death, injury, and risk behaviors are limited.

Most measurement of crime in this country emanates from two major

data sources. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports has collected information

on crimes known to the police and arrests from local and state jurisdictions

throughout the country for almost seven decades. The National Crime

Victimization Survey, a general population survey designed to discover the

extent, nature, and consequences of criminal victimization, has existed since

the early 1970s. Other national surveys that focus on specific problems,

such as delinquency, violence against women, and child abuse, also provide

important data on crime, victims, and offenders. A variety of data sources

have been used to assemble information on suicide and accidents, and the

National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) has been funded via

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to collect information

on all violent deaths.

In this section, we describe four datasets used to monitor and assess

firearms-related violence: the National Crime Victimization Survey, the

Uniform Crime Reports, and two emerging systems, the National Incident-

Based Reporting System and the National Violent Death Reporting System.

The latter two are thought to hold some promise for improving the research

information on firearms and violence. Many of the other data collection

sources (listed in Table 2-1) have very limited information on firearms and

have been assessed elsewhere (see, for example, Annest and Mercy, 1998;

Institute of Medicine, 1999).