Who Cleans Up After Violent Crime?
October 12, 2007 1:46 PM   Subscribe

MorbidFilter: Who cleans up after a violent crime?

Like if someone killed themselves in your home? Or when someone shoots up a convenience store? It seems like anywhere where there might be a significant amount of blood would be of concern regarding pathogens and I'd imagine cleaning up after the death of a loved one would be pretty traumatic. (This is one of those been-watching-a-lot-of-CSI questions.)
posted by amanda to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Mostly private contractors that are paid well. Google "crime scene cleanup."

posted by iwhitney at 1:47 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here's one service: Crime Clean of Texas. Here's another: Bio-Tec.
posted by desjardins at 1:49 PM on October 12, 2007

If it's in your home, such as a suicide, you're often left to clean it up yourself. I know people who have had to do it.

Similarly, in a store, the building's owners or managers are typically responsible for the mess that hasn't been removed as part of the crime investigation, such as spilled blood.

Companies that clean up after disasters like house fires or floods are increasingly handling biological debris, and in larger cities, there are companies that do this exclusively. They have strict rules for handling pathogens.

This American Life once had a great episode about one of these companies.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:52 PM on October 12, 2007

There's an interesting narrative from the founder of one of these companies in the fascinating book Gig. It was also featured in Harper's (link goes to PDF download for subscribers only).
posted by kittyprecious at 1:58 PM on October 12, 2007

Best answer: I once waited tables with a woman who ran one of these companies on the side with her husband. It's definitely lucrative but painstaking work. She told me some great stories about her "family business"...

Most of the calls they got were from hotel rooms that needed treating, but occasionally they'd get asked to clean up in someone's home.

Laws in that state had recently changed making it mandatory that any surface that had contact with blood could not just be cleaned but had to be stripped and discarded. So for the carpets they had to just cut out big squares around the blood and incinerate them, even if there were just a few spots of blood.

They were supposed to clean the WHOLE ROOM, not just the part of the room where the crime took place. She told me that it was tempting to shirk on that, because in some rich homes rooms are HUGE, and it was a drag to clean stuff that was nowhere near the actual scene. One night they were cleaning up after a man who had shot himself in one corner of a very huge room; they decided to just give the rest of the room a once-over instead of the usual deep clean. As they moved the furniture around to check stuff out, she found something-- a piece of skull roughly the size of a quarter that had been blown across the room and was wedged between the wall and the back of an end table. Suffice to say she made sure they cleaned all of each scene from then on; the idea of a family member or some other unsuspecting person finding a trace of the incident weighed on her conscience too greatly.
posted by hermitosis at 2:03 PM on October 12, 2007 [9 favorites]

Here's a NY Times article on the subject.
posted by otolith at 2:05 PM on October 12, 2007

Everywhere else - or as far as I can tell, Southern Europe and South America - it's either the fire fighters or yourself. Or a neighbour or friend, if you're lucky. I remember my cousin picking up the brains of a neighbour's son who shot himself from their kitchen's floor.

Besides, in most countries I know there isn't a market for these clean-up services mentioned. Either because people would not be able to afford them or because there aren't enough violent crimes.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 2:05 PM on October 12, 2007

The Chicago Reader did a story on Aftermath Inc., which handles this sort of thing, but I was unable to locate the feature in their archives (it was from 2000, if that helps any).

It's horrible, IMHO. It made me decide that, if I'm ever going to kill myself, it won't be at home where anyone I know would have to deal with it.
posted by aramaic at 2:06 PM on October 12, 2007

Live in the Bay area? You too can clean up brain splatter.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:12 PM on October 12, 2007

Thomas Lynch has written about being a funeral director, and he also writes in the same book ("The undertaking") about providing this kind of cleanup service.
posted by not that girl at 2:15 PM on October 12, 2007

CNN/Money story

Interview with a crime-scene cleaner and the author of a book about Atermath Inc.

Berkeley has a nonprofit crime-scene cleaner.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:21 PM on October 12, 2007

MetaFilter thread from 2002; I linked to this story (Wayback Machine).
posted by kirkaracha at 2:24 PM on October 12, 2007

There was a CSI episode that featured a crime scene cleanup guy as an auxiliary character. Looks like it's episode 5 from season 5: "Swap Meet".
posted by roomwithaview at 2:44 PM on October 12, 2007

In an episode of Insomniac, Dave Attell rides along with Crime Scene Cleaners, who are mentioned in that MetaFilter post. Follow the link for a short video, although unfortunately it doesn't feature footage of the actual clean-up process, which is shown in the full episode.
posted by puritycontrol at 2:49 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Neal Smither is the crime scene cleaner from Harper's and Gig mentioned by kittyprecious above. Here's a direct link to the This American Life show he was featured in. Pretty entertaining guy, very straightforward. And he fakes a Southern accent to make people feel more comfortable around him---awesome ;-)
posted by ibeji at 3:13 PM on October 12, 2007

Not a crime, exactly, but my grandmother fell down the stairs and into sharp glass, etc., and left a puddle of blood, as well as a trail of drips through the house. My mother got to clean it up (blessed angel that she is). (And my grandmother has recovered, in case anyone is wondering.)
posted by anaelith at 3:54 PM on October 12, 2007

Many years ago, our roomate/landlord shot himself in the head with a service pistol in the back room of our house. Once the body was taken away, one of the personnel at the scene asked my then boyfriend if we wanted "Victim Services" to clean up the considerable amount blood and other residue left in the room. For some reason, he declined and we had to clean it up ourselves.

I think it depends on the circumstances of the death and where you happen to live, but I imagine there are people who are either employed or contracted by the police department to clean up.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:57 PM on October 12, 2007

Jules: Well, I'm a mushroom-cloud-layin' motherfucker, motherfucker! Every time my fingers touch brain, I'm Superfly T.N.T., I'm the Guns of the Navarone! IN FACT, WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOIN' IN THE BACK? YOU'RE THE MOTHERFUCKER WHO SHOULD BE ON BRAIN DETAIL! We're fuckin' switchin'! I'm washin' the windows, and you're pickin' up this nigger's skull!
posted by kirkaracha at 8:21 PM on October 12, 2007

Best answer: I've had to clean up a few pretty grisly scenes. It's as horrible as you'd imagine. One particular time: man shot himself in the middle of his living room with a snub-nose pistol. His body was found by his ten year old son.

The force of the blast made his head shatter internally, but it stayed together mostly as he hit the ground. When we moved him to the cot, however, we found that blood and other viscera had leaked out of the back of his skull, staining a 7-inch square area in the carpet. We cut the carpet away, only to find that the blood had soaked through the pad and stained the baseboards underneath. For an hour, we scrubbed the floor bare with bleach until there was no more trace of the blood.

There are services who do this kind of thing...mostly off-duty nurses or ambulance drivers...people with a stomach for this kind of gore. In this particular case, we didn't hire anyone because they can be quite expensive, and we didn't want to add anything to the cost of these particular services.

I've had to do it maybe half a dozen times in the past three years, but my brother tells me stories that will turn your guts. The most brutal visual I remember: when lifting a head where the skull has been shattered by a shotgun blast, he says that it feels like moving a warm, wet back of ice chips.
posted by ColdChef at 9:02 PM on October 12, 2007

You (or anyone else who's clicked on this thread) might enjoy watching the 1996 movie Curdled. It's about a woman (played by Angela Jones, who also played Bruce Willis' cab driver in Pulp Fiction) who gets a job cleaning up crime scenes. I have no idea how accurate it is. (Not very, I suspect.)

Anyway, it was exec produced by Tarantino and was one of those movies that came into being purely by the grace of his coattails (which, at the time, seemed endless).
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 10:22 PM on October 12, 2007

When my uncle shot himself (in the house of my grandparents) their across-the-street neighbors (and, obviously, friends) cleaned up. She was a nurse, he a doctor. I always thought that was so terribly kind.
posted by bunnie at 11:04 PM on October 12, 2007

Response by poster: Wow -- such a variety of answers. It really surprises me that there is not a more coordinated effort on the part of our law enforcement agencies or health care services to attend to something like this. I've heard that the Red Cross offers services in the event of fire or flood even when it's just one property -- you'd think there would be an agency that would handle this. I wonder how it's done in other countries.

I've marked as "best" those that have first-person accounts. I am now recalling that my father had some kind of job like this though I always assumed he was part of an investigation team because he talked about coming up on the scene and labelling parts (one, a parachuting accident and another, a suicide). I recall that he didn't keep the job long. He was in residency and went on to work as an eye surgeon (Ew!) but just didn't have the stomach for it. I'll have to ask him about it next time we are together.
posted by amanda at 9:01 AM on October 13, 2007

The plot of Nekromantik involves a guy who does this sort of clean-up work bringing home a fresh corpse who his wife, ah, really enjoys (with unexpected results! har har). Particularly grisly depiction of this sort of cleaning activity here FWIW.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:13 PM on October 13, 2007

« Older Getting from Mountain View to San Jose without...   |   Help me conquer my fear of driving Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.