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The type and quality of data used for estimating RV influences the amount of revictimization that can be detected. This, in turn, may mask key elements of revictimization and limit how we can determine the impact of reducing revictimization.
Recorded crime data are most often used to detect repeat victimization.† However, the actual amount of repeat victimization is often masked by common problems, including:
† Citizen-initiated calls for service (911 calls) are valuable for identifying repeat victimization, particularly by address. While call data have limited variables and are not subject to the same level of verification as incident reports, they can provide important insight into related problems, such as 911 hang-ups and domestic violence, or groups of problems, such as those occurring at schools or bars.
Victim surveys improve upon police data because the data address a common problem in police data—underreporting. Since victimization for any particular offense is usually quite low, random surveys are generally not cost effective. Police, however, can use two basic methods to survey for repeat victimization:
Victim follow-up surveys. Offense reports (or call histories) are used to construct a sampling frame; victims are then surveyed some time after their initial victimization to determine if they have been revictimized, and whether or not they called the police. The time period may be 30 days, or three, six, or 12 months—depending upon the time course for the offense type being examined.
Modified offense reports. A simple way for police to incorporate revictimization surveys into routine police work is to modify offense reports and/or the initial investigation of responding officers to include a few basic questions about victimization such as:
Questions about victimization experience should be used to identify high-risk victims and may also shed light on the development of the most effective responses. Questions for victims should relate to the specific problem being examined.
In some cases, police may want to carry out larger surveys. An entire population can be surveyed—such as all convenience store managers, budget motel managers, women on small college campuses, public school principals, or homebuilders. Some surveys may be observational, such as crime prevention surveys that assess environmental features such as lighting or building layouts.
In general, methodological issues must be considered in victim surveys:
For guidance on developing surveys, refer to A Police Guide for Surveying Citizens and their Environments, or Conducting Community Surveys. Both are listed in the recommended readings. There are also specialized survey instruments, such as those used for conducting follow-up surveys with women victimized by domestic violence. For example, www.vaw.umn.edu/ contains links to validated instruments for such surveys that measure the amount of conflict that a victim has experienced. While many of these survey instruments are copyrighted and too in-depth for police use, they provide ideas about reliable questions can be incorporated into any followup survey.
While there are other existing sources of data about revictimization, data may need to be collected to document repeat victimization.
Important data may be collected through environmental observations. Properties that are vulnerable to graffiti such as vandal-prone walls in urban areas, pedestrian tunnels, or transportation corridors should be monitored to improve the amount and accuracy of information about offenses. Such observations may be daily or weekly, or reflect periods of vulnerability, such as following school holidays. (For more detailed guidance on environmental surveys, see A Police Guide to Surveying Citizens and Their Environment. This publication is listed in Recommended Readings at the end of this monograph.)
Interviews with apprehended or experienced offenders may improve understanding of repeat victimization. Although these interviews won't provide an empirical measure about the amount of repeat victimization, insights from offenders may provide understanding of target selection and an opportunity to prevent recurring victimization. (For more detailed guidance on collecting information from offenders, see the companion guide to this series, Using Offender Interviews to Inform Police Problem Solving.)
Other data sources that have been used to detect repeat victimization include medical records, such as hospital admissions or treatment in emergency rooms, admissions to domestic violence shelters, and inventory systems.
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