In the April 2013 issue of the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Zavin Nazaretian and David Merolla question the current approach to capping criminal incidents within the Canadian General Social Survey: Victimization (GSS-V). Statistics Canada would like to clarify this approach and correct some interpretation errors in their article, "Questioning Canadian Criminal Incidence Rates: A Re-analysis of the 2004 Canadian Victimization Survey."
The authors correctly note that measures of victimization based on capping have been adopted by leading statistical agencies and are in keeping with international practice. The authors specifically examine the Canadian example and criticize the capping procedure adopted by the GSS-V. In particular, Nazaretian and Merolla suggest that the victimization rates published by Statistics Canada are capped at three incidents per victim, and that this capping is carried out to limit inflation due to telescoping. This assumption, however, is not accurate.
The GSS-V uses two capping approaches, one to address victim sensitivity issues and the other to limit the impact of extreme cases (i.e., 'outliers'). The first capping takes place during the actual collection of data when respondents are being interviewed. Each respondent is limited to completing a maximum of 5 incident reports per offence type (up to an overall total of 20 incident reports per respondent). This cap was introduced primarily out of respect for the victims, since each incident report requires a great deal of their time and can be emotionally difficult, in some cases. While Statistics Canada strives for completeness of data, we also have to be mindful of both respondent burden and victims' needs.
The second cap is implemented at the incident report level. Each incident report can represent up to 10 incidents with similar circumstances (generally in cases of repeat victimization or when a victim has difficulty recalling the details of the incidents). It is this number of incidents per report that is capped at 3 for official victimization rates. Thus, given that a victim can complete up to 20 incident reports and each of those...