People across the United States, including in Southern California, are fascinated with crime. One need only look at television schedules and film premiers to get a feeling for how interested people from all walks of life are about crime. This includes what fairly can be called an intense fascination with crime scenes and crime scene investigations. Despite a great amount of attention paid to crime scenes and crime scene investigations, there is a considerable amount of misinformation about these matters as well as about crime scene cleanup. This confusion can extend to the work and role of crime scene cleaners.
Who Is Responsible for Crime Scene Cleaning and Sanitization?
One area in which there is a considerable amount of confusion is in regard to who bears responsibility for crime scene cleaning and sanitization. If the general public were to be polled, the likely answer from a considerable majority of people would be that some governmental agency is responsible for crime scene cleanup. A member of the general public is apt to say the police or perhaps even the coroner bears responsibility for cleaning up and sanitizing a crime scene.
The reality is that no governmental agency is responsible for crime scene cleanup. Rather, undertaking crime scene cleanup and sanitization falls on certain members of the general public, possibly even victims of crime, including victims of violent crime. Examples of people commonly responsible for crime scene cleaning include:
- Business owners
- Automobile owners
Crime Scenes, Law Enforcement, and Coroners
Although law enforcement officials, including crime scene investigation teams, as well as local coroners, are not responsible for crime scene cleaning, these public officials do play a role in how and when a crime scene will be cleaned and sanitized. When a crime occurs, law enforcement professionals commonly known as crime scene investigators are called to and control the scene of the misfeasance.
If the crime involved a homicide, the local coroner is also brought to the scene. Part of the work of a coroner is a comprehensive, thorough examination of the death scene. At some juncture in the case of a homicide, the coroner will remove and transport the remains of the deceased victim from the crime scene. Arguably, the removal of the remains is associated with the broader idea of remediating the crime scene, but the coroner has no real responsibility for crime scene remediation.
Crime scene cleanup cannot commence until the investigatory work of law enforcement (and the coroner, if involved) is fully completed. In some cases, a crime scene investigation can be completed in a relatively short period of time. On the other hand, there are cases in which a crime scene investigation can extend over more than a day.
In order to preserve the integrity of a crime scene, a homeowner or other person with a legal interest in the scene cannot access the residence or other location where a crime occurred until law enforcement releases the scene. Until the official release of the scene, absolutely nothing can be done in regard to cleaning and restoring it, including even a visit by a crime scene cleanup company to provide an overview of what needs to be done.
Inherent Dangers of Crime Scenes
The fact that a crime scene requires cleanup underscores the reality that an event fraught with danger occurred at a particular location. With that said, in many situations involving the need for crime scene cleaning and even sanitization, the site requiring remediation potentially can remain dangerous. Indeed, in a good number of instances, a crime scene presents some very real dangers, including potentially significant health risks to those who come into contact with a crime scene in need of remediation.
A homicide scene illustrates how there can be inherent dangers in a crime scene. If a person was the victim of a violent homicide or even a severe physical assault, the crime scene will be contaminated with biological matter. Biomatter can contain what are known as dangerous pathogens. These can include disease-causing contagions like HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, MRSA, COVID-19, as well as other bacteria and viruses.
The Work of Professional Crime Scene Cleaners
Professional crime scene cleaners have the experience, equipment, and other materials vitally necessary to remediate any type of crime scene, including the site of a violent crime. Crime scene cleaners have the background and resources needed to safely clean and sanitize a residence, business, or other location and restore it to a fully usable condition.