Friday evening was pretty much like any other. My family and I went out for a pizza dinner and then came home and watched the Disney feature Cars, a favorite, for the umpteenth time. When the flick ended, we all turned in for the evening.
Fridays are special for us, in part because of what my wife and I do for a living. My wife and I own and operate a biohazard remediation company. Through our business, we provide professional cleanup services to home and business owners after a traumatic event, including a violent crime. We help people during very difficult times. Because of our work, we truly understand the importance of family time together.
Sometime after midnight, the telephone rang. The call came from another family that actually needed the services of our company. Unfortunately, what had started out for them as an evening quite like that of my own family ended very, very differently for them.
Because of the nature of biohazard cleanup, my wife and I, together with the rest of our team, have to be on call around the clock. On this occasion, I took the call on my own.
The call came from the husband and father of a family who lives in the Hollywood Hills, one of the loveliest neighborhoods in all of the Los Angeles area. I arrived at the stylish home just before two in the morning, the husband meeting me at the door. The man, who I’ll call James (to protect his privacy), told me an alarming tale of what happened at his family’s him earlier that night.
James, his wife, and their children were asleep upstairs in the house. The family was awoken at the sound of breaking glass coming from the first floor of their home. James told his wife to stay put and went to check on his children. Leaving the bedroom, he encountered an intruder, a man James estimated to be in his 30s. In a beat, James was able to quickly conclude that the man in his family home was high on some type of drug. Additionally, by the appearance of the intruder, the man appeared to be homeless.
Protecting his family, James told the man to leave the house immediately. James also told the intruder that he was going to get his gun.
James ran back to the bedroom to retrieve his gun and to call the police. Meanwhile, the intruder ran towards the front door of the residence. Reaching the front door, the intruder attempted to unlock the door and exit. Because the intruder was so high, he failed in his attempt to complete the simple task of unlocking the door to exit.
James’ assumption that the man appeared to be stoned proved completely true. Indeed, James would soon learn the sound of breaking glass he’d heard earlier was the intruder falling into and through the sliding door at the rear of the residence.
Giving up on trying to open the front door, the intruder ended up jumping through a closed window in the living room. The police arrived in short speed, finding the man standing in the front yard in a daze, fairly well covered in blood as a result of falling through one pane of class and diving through another.
Different areas on the first floor of James’ home were significantly contaminated by the intruder’s blood. In addition, there was blood in other locations of the residence due too the fact that the intruder had started to wander around, even for a short time, before breaking out of the house (quite literally).
The intruder was taken into custody. The police undertook an investigation of James’ home, which has become a crime scene. Thankfully, the police were efficient in their investigation of the scene in an attempt to forgo disturbing James and his family any further that night.
While the police were at work at the scene, James telephoned me to engage our crime scene cleanup services immediately. Not knowing who the intruder was, recognizing that the intruder was high at the time he broke into the house, and being aware that blood and other bodily fluids can contain dangerous pathogens, James wanted to make sure that the blood throughout the living room and other spaces on the first floor was eliminated immediately.
As much as people would like to imagine, what happened that night at James’ home is more common than Los Angelenos realize. For example, there are over 4,500 home burglaries and invasions in the United States every year, with thousands of them throughout Los Angeles annually.
As James also surmised, the man who broke into his family’s residence was homeless. In recent years, homeless is no longer a problem in Los Angeles confined to Skid Row, downtown, and South Central. Homeless people and large homeless encampments can be found in even the most affluent part of the city, including the Hollywood Hills. There are over 57,000 homeless people in LA, of which almost 43,000 live on the streets and do not take advantage of any type of emergency or temporary shelter.
Finally, the police also confirmed to James that the intruder was high on either heroin or meth, the man admitting to using both to the police when he was apprehended on the front lawn, depending on what he can get his hands on at any given time.
An important fact needs to be borne in mind. Individuals who use injectable street drugs like heroin or meth have a significantly higher incidence of contracting a serious, or even potentially fatal, virus or bacterium that is the case with the population as a whole. Thus, the reality that night was that the blood contaminating different parts of the residence could contain hazardous viruses or bacteria that potentially could negatively impact the health and welfare of James and his family. In addition, James had an understandable desire to get the cleanup underway before morning to limit the scope of what his children would be exposed to when they began their days a short amount of time down the road.
As a result, directly after the police finished their investigation at the scene, team and I went to work. Because the blood was fresh and was found mostly on hardwood floors, walls, around the windows, and in similar locations, the blood cleanup process was not as complicated or as challenging as many of the other tasks we undertake as biohazard remediation professionals. Nonetheless, there was a clear and understandable emotional element to the situation that night as well. The family was already traumatized enough, a reality that didn’t need to be compounded by blood and related reminders of the home invasion unnecessarily lingering on.
When the major part of the cleaning and sanitization of the area contaminated by blood was completed, I stepped outside and stood on the lawn for a moment, probably not far off from where the intruder had been not long before. I felt a sense of gratitude for being able to help a family deal with what was no doubt a frightening, traumatic experience. I’ve come to realize that when the aftermath of the type of incident at James’ home is addressed efficiently and quickly after the traumatic moment itself, the emotional state of victims like this family is better protected and less impacted.
I heard nothing further about what did or didn’t happen to the intruder. My wife and I received a holiday card from James and his family, They’ve been doing well. My hope always is that a family will not face what James’ endured. If that is not possible, my wife and I feel sincerely blessed to be able to assist family like James’ in the hour of need.