"Measurement Problems in Official and Survey Crime Rates," Journal of Criminal
Justice, 3, (Spring, 1975), 17-31.
This paper analyzes sources of error in the two major methods we use to measure crime in
America–official police statistics and victimization surveys. The two produce quite different
pictures of the volume and distribution of crime, but it is not clear that his is because victim-
based statistics are "accurate." Each measurement procedure has its characteristic errors,
some of which it shares with the other. Comparisons of official and survey data on crime are
helpful in revealing the dimensions of these error terms, and they point out the analyses which
must be conducted if we are to specify their exact proportions.
Issues in the Measurement of Victimization. Washington, DC: US Government
Printing Office, 1981.
This volume summarizes 15 years of research on methodological issues in the measurement
of criminal victimization by means of population surveys. The report reviews some features of
crime which affect our ability to measure it accurately, including the relative infrequency of
serious victimization, the skewed distribution of victimization in the population, and the furtive
character of crime. The third chapter addresses issues related to the operationalization of
victimization in survey questionnaires. It examines the events orientation of victimization
surveys, the assumption that crimes always are discrete incidents rather than continuous
social processes, and the utility of measures of criminal activity abstracted from their social
context. The fourth chapter reviews specific measurement problems: limited distribution of
knowledge of incidents, forgetting or inaccurate recall of events, and differential productivity
of survey respondents. The next chapter reviews three procedural issues which affect
estimates of victimization rates: problems of panel bias and attrition, differences between
telephone and in-person interviews, and interviewer effects. The final chapter summarizes the
current state of art in this area and discusses possible future developments in victimization
"Methodological Issues in the Study of Victimization," in Ezzat Fattah (ed.) From
Crime Policy to Victim Policy. London: Macmillan, 1986, 80-116.
Most of what we know about measurement problems in victimization surveys comes from three
kinds of research. The first methodological research technique is analytic; it involves carefully
examining the results of a victimization survey to infer the impact of various methodological
features on the study on the data. The second technique is experimental; it involves varying
specific survey methods across parallel samples and then comparing the resulting estimates
of victimization rate or other aspects of the data. The third method is criterion validation; it
depends on the existence of some alternative record of a crime which we can assume is
accurate and we can compare to the results of an interview with the victim. Each of these
techniques has made an important contribution to our understanding of the nature of error in
measures of victimization.