One of the most horrific things that can happen in the course of a lifetime is having to deal with the aftermath of a violent crime. Ultimately, the crime scene will need to be cleaned. Undertaking crime scene cleanup is a complicated task because of the possible presence of biohazards at the scene. A biohazard is defined as biological material that has the ability to produce negative effects on humans, other animals, or the environment. Examples of where biohazards might be found at the scene of a violence crime include:
- Other bodily fluids
- Other biological material (like skin)
- Contaminated items that came into contact with blood, bodily fluids, or biological materials
Because of the potentially dangerous materials that can be at a crime scene, the cleanup process needs to start as soon as possible. As is discussed in a moment, because you are dealing with a crime scene, there are some restrictions as to when the cleanup process can actually commence.
What is a Crime Scene?
A crime scene typically is defined as a tangible location at which illegal activity of some type occurred. A crime scene consists of specific physical area in which evidence can be retrieved by law enforcement officials or investigators.
An example of a crime scene could be a room in your residence, or all of your residence, depending on the nature and extent of the crime at issue. If a murder, or some other violent crime, occurred in your residence, the room in which the attack or homicide occurred is the primary crime scene. On the other hand, the entire residence is likely to be cordoned off as the crime scene because evidence might be found in other parts of the residence.
When law enforcement officials arrive at the scene of a crime, they take control of it. No one else is allowed access to a crime scene without the permission of law enforcement personnel, or the coroner’s office staff in the event of a homicide.
There are some practical implications to this reality. Chief among them is the fact that you are not able to commence the process of cleaning up after a violent crime until law enforcement, or the coroner’s office, released the premises (your home, for example) back to you. Indeed, you likely will not even be able to enter your house for any reason until that release back occurs.
There is no set timeframe at which a crime scene investigation at a residence must be completed. The length of a crime scene investigation depends fully on the nature of the crime that occurred at the premises, and its aftermath.
In most situations, a crime scene investigation is completed the same day it commences. There are instances in which the investigation of the crime scene goes on for a more extended period of time. This typically is the case when different types of forensics investigators are called upon to more fully examine the crime scene.
What to do if Your Find a Dead Body
If you the first person on the scene of a violent crime, there are some specific steps that you must take. These steps are vital in order to protect your own safety and that of other individuals.
The first step to take when you find a dead body is to contact law enforcement and emergency medical personnel. This most often is done by calling 911 immediately upon the discovery of a dead body.
When you discover a dead body, you also must take specific steps to protect yourself. If the circumstances make it clear that there is no possibility of reviving the individual found at the scene, you need to remove yourself from the room at once. In addition, you also need to leave the scene, and not touch or disturb anything, in order not to disrupt anything that might be important to the law enforcement professionals called upon to investigate the case.
There are two primary situations in which there is going to be no lack of clarity about the status of the body you discovered. First, if the individual died a violent death of some sort, there will be blood, bodily fluids, and other biological material that very well may be evident at the scene. Second, is the person died more than a couple of days ago, as a result of decomposition, the state of the body will make it clear that resuscitation is impossible.
You must remove yourself from the location of the dead body to protect yourself from dangerous pathogens that may be present at the scene. Harmful pathogens can be found in blood, bodily fluids, other biological material, and items that have been contaminated by these substances. In addition, there are dangerous pathogens that might exist at a crime scene at which a dead body is discovered that are airborne.
In addition to removing yourself from the crime scene and the location of the body while awaiting law enforcement and emergency medical personnel to arrive, you also need to keep others from entering into the crime. This is necessary to protect their physical safety and wellbeing. It also must be done to preserve the crime scene for investigators.
Who Cleans Up a Crime Scene?
If you are like many people, you very well may have at least some misconceptions about cleaning up a crime scene, including who is responsible for that task. This includes a violent crime scene in your home (or place of business).
A good number of people presume that law enforcement personnel or some other agency takes care of cleaning up a crime scene. In fact, if a violent crime occurs in your home, you are responsible for cleaning up the scene. This is the case even if the aftermath of the crime includes a significant amount of blood, and other bodily fluids and materials.
Despite a crime scene cleanup at your home being your responsibility, that does not mean you should embark on the task on your own. In fact, there are some significant reasons why you should not personally try to clean up the scene of a violent crime:
- If you are like most people, you lack the training and experience to undertake this challenging task.
- You have suffered enough having a violent crime occur in your him. In fact, if you’ve lost a family member in the incident, your primary goal needs to be trying to move forward in a healthy grieving process. You don’t need the unnecessary, in some ways unthinkable, additional emotional burden of having to clean up the crime scene.
- You likely do not have the personal protective equipment necessary to safely undertake a crime scene cleanup.
- In addition, you undoubtedly do not possess, nor have access to, the chemicals necessary to clean, sanitize, deodorize, and restore a violent crime scene.
What are the Requirements for Crime Scene Cleanup?
As discussed a moment ago, the first requirement for a crime scene cleanup is being granted the authority from law enforcement, or the coroner’s office, to begin cleanup process. Once this occurs, the next requirement is to make sure that those working on the crime scene cleanup have appropriate personal protective equipment, or PPE.
If a homicide has been committed, the removal of the body from the scene may not be the point in time at which the cleanup process can commence. This depends upon what other types of forensic examination that needs to be undertaken at the crime scene.
Homeowners can get impatient with being excluded from their own residences while the immediate investigation is ongoing. However, it is important to bear in mind that a thorough investigation is part of the process to bring justice to a loved one who was the victim of a violent crime in your home.
For the purposes of cleaning up the scene of a violent crime, PPE typically consists of:
- Smock or proper outer clothing
- Eye protection (goggles)
- Mouth protection (surgical mask or respirator)
The requirements for crime scene cleanup also include ensuring that a number of other qualifications are met by the professional crime scene remediation and restoration service. These include:
- Appropriately trained, bonded, and insured team of biohazard remediation specialists.
- Appropriately registered company (in California, a company or professional that provides biohazard remediation services, like those services associated with cleaning up a violent crime scene, must be duly registered with the state).
What do Crime Scene Cleaners Do?
Crime scene cleaners are professionals who pursue what is called biohazard remediation. Generally speaking, biohazard remediation is a four-step process designed to return your home to a livable or habitable state. These four steps undertaken by crime scene cleaners are:
Cleaning involves the thorough elimination of blood, bodily fluids, biological material, and items that have been contaminated from the crime scene. These substances are treated like biohazardous waste and must be placed in appropriate biohazards bags or waste bins. In addition, any item that has been contaminated by these materials, that cannot be cleaned, must also be placed into biohazards bags or waste bins.
The next step in the crime scene cleanup process is sanitization. This step involves the use of application of medical grade sanitization chemicals to eliminate any biohazardous materials like bloodborne pathogens. (The most common bloodborne pathogens in the United States are HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and MRSA.
Depending on the nature of the crime, and other factors, deodorization may be required. For example, if a homicide was committed, and the body was not immediately discovered, the decomposition process will have left foul odors at the crime scene which must be addressed. This is accomplished through the utilization of commercial deodorization agents.
The ultimate goal of a professional crime scene cleanup, or biohazard remediation, is to restore the residence to a habitable or livable state.
How Much Does Crime Scene Cleanup Cost?
The cost associated with a crime scene cleanup depends on a number of factors. These include:
- The nature of the crime. The manner in which a violent crime was committed is a primary determining factor in regard to the nature and extent of the cleanup itself.
- The extent of the crime scene. If the crime scene is contained to one room, the costs associated with professional cleanup will not be as great as it the crime occurred in multiple rooms.
The costs associated with crime scene cleanup also vary by geographic location, at least to some degree. In larger cities, competition might result in containing costs. If a cleanup needs to be undertaken in a smaller community, there may not be a readily accessible biohazard remediation service. If a professional needs to come in from somewhere else, that can increase costs, at least to some degree.
With that noted, Eco Bear is committed to providing comprehensive crime scene cleanup services at a reasonable cost to you. Our rates are $250 per hour, per technician. There is a charge of $200 for each red biohazardous waste bin needed for a particular cleanup. The average rate for a crime scene cleanup that is limited to one room typically is between $1,000 to $2,500.
Who Pays for a Crime Scene Cleanup?
There typically are three options in California when it comes to who pays for a crime scene cleanup. The family ultimately is responsible for the cost of a crime scene cleanup. With that said, a family oftentimes can obtain financial assistance in meeting some or all of the costs associated with a crime scene cleanup.
Homeowners insurance may provide coverage for crime scene cleanup in your home. Some insurance policies include at least some coverage as part of a standard policy. In other instances, you would have had to add this type of coverage through a rider (or addition) to the basis or standard coverage.
The California Victim Compensation Board provides up to $1,000 to go towards crime scene cleanup. The Board offers compensation for an array of other types of losses associated with being a victim of crime.