OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Impact of Crime Scene Clean Up
Raymond Goins, Michael Milnor  -  2015/5/14
https://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
I am thinking about the companies which take care of crime scene cleanup. I am sure this must be very traumatic for some people and that they then become victimized as well. Any information on how they are assisted in the aftermath?
 
1.  regimar
 Absolutely I agree that mental health intervention is important by a counselor trained specifically in trauma response and in those specific intervention addressing post trauma symptoms.
 
2.  Ray Goins
 The trauma felt from the aftermath of a crime can be detrimental and effects even people who aren't related to the victim. In my experience a sound mental health program for employees of companies who perform crime scene cleanup and an active, trained victim advocate for law enforcement agencies. The assistance should fit the need of the individual, ranging from clerical to counseling by a mental health professional. In the crime scene cleanup companies and law enforcement it should be recognized one incident may cause a need for assistance or a cumulative effect of several crime scenes may trigger the need for assistance. Mood changes, unusual reactions, even PTSD should not be ignored but addressed.
 
3.  Mike Milnor
 OVC Webinar 1. I share your concern about the physiological impact of scene clean-up on the workers and technicians in these agencies. Having never actually managed one of the private companies, I have no idea what they do to protect their personnel. I will say that this is an area that we have ignored largely in the law enforcement world for decades. I have personally picked up more body parts than I can count and never had any type of mandated de-brief or counseling on a regular basis. We are now aware of the cumulative effect of continued exposure to the violent deaths scenes that we are called to investigate and clean-up. Occasionally, if the scene involved a child we would de-brief with crisis intervention professionals, but only rarely.
 
 
do you have any general tips on how police can balance evidence gathering with wanting to get the area cleared to allow victims to return to their home?
 
1.  Ray Goins
 I would recommend constant communication of the overall process be maintained with the victim(s) and/or family through the investigating detective or victim advocate. The CSI should balance proper procedures and processes with the desire to meet the victim's basic needs. It does take time to do the job right and most victims understand if you explain what you doing and why it takes a certain amount of time.
 
2.  Mike Milnor
 Good question Kyle. Balancing evidence collection and getting the victim back into the home is a delicate act at times. I have investigated many homicides where we were on the scene for days processing. We certainly always keep the needs of the family in mind, but the golden rule of any crime scene investigation is not to rush. I think the main thing in these situations is to have the lead detective maintain an open line of communication with the victims and to educate them on why things are taking as long as they do. Our first obligation is to collect the evidence in order to prosecute those responsible, but by keeping the communication open, we lessen the impact on the victims.
 
 
do you provide victims with a list of reputable crime scene cleanup companies and if so, how are they vetted?
 
1.  Mike Milnor
 I can only speak from my experience, but we provided the names of National agencies with local branches or any local agencies that we had experience with. The police agency in no way endorses or guarantees any service provided by a private company. There was no official vetting as this was not a police agency service and the agency did not endorse anyone company.
 
2.  Ray Goins
 My agency, along with most government funded agencies, can not refer. We have created a list of local providers which were found by company type listing but no vetting is performed. We will not recommend a specific company or comment on any company listed due to the appearance of favoritism and the potential liability.
 
 
What help can you provide to victims that can't afford clean up services and don't have insurance coverage?
 
1.  Mike Milnor
 This would be where your Victims Witness Advocates office would step in and attempt to find funding either through state Victimís Compensation or perhaps coordinating through local charities.
 
2.  Ray Goins
 If there is no state crime victim fund I would look at community based non-profit or faith based agencies. Some may have tangible and funding assistance available. You may also contact the Office for Victims of Crime. Information for application is at http://www.ovc.gov/about/victimsfund.html
 
 
If there is extensive clean-up after a crime and family or person is displaced what agencies assist with boarding these clients? Thank you.
 
1.  Ray Goins
 Funding may also be available through the Office of the Victims of Crime at http://www.ovc.gov/about/victimsfund.html
 
2.  Mike Milnor
 In Virginia, Crime Victimís Compensation Fund may pay some toward temporary housing of victims in these cases. Another resource would be Social Service agencies. In cases of fire or arson, the Red Cross may also help. I would also suggest that police and emergency service agencies network with community resources such as churches and civic groups so that there can be a known list of resources available to the victims on the scene.
 
 
How does PDs and CSI work with Crime Scene cleaners to ensure the maximum collection of evidence. Also, how are the families impacted by the cost of the crime scene cleaning. I know in Denver, there is an agency that assists. Im curious to know about other states and Victim compensation involvement.
 
1.  Mike Milnor
 Well, the two are very separate. As a rule CSI does not communicate very much with the clean-up company. The scene will not be released to the private company for clean-up until all forensic collection is complete. In Virginia, the police agency usually does not call the company, a list of companies is provided to the victim and they make the contact. Victims Witness Advocates will also assist the victim or victim families in this process. As a rule, at least here, Crime Victims Compensation Fund will help with at least some of the cost. Also other avenues to look into are the victimís homeownerís insurance that may also help in some ways.
 
2.  Ray Goins
 I have provided training in the processed of crime scene processing and worked with our local companies to determine the best cleaning methods for the processes. Most states have Victim Compensation funds to assist victims with the cost and other agencies to assist with items not covered.
 
 
My state does not include crime scene clean up in its list of reimbursable benefits under our CVC statute. Do you have advice about how to advocate for that policy change? Any successful stories you can point to with helpful messaging for policy makers?
 
1.  Ray Goins
 You might consider contacting either a local or national victim's rights group to combine with lobbying efforts from your state Fraternal Order of Police to change the statute. There is some funding available at http://www.ovc.gov/about/victimsfund.html
 
2.  Mike Milnor
 As with any policy change, it is imperative to have a relationship with your local legislative representative. Victimís stories are strong motivators. Getting your representative on board and involved will be an education process. Most of them, unless educated to it, to not think of the bloody scenes left behind in a homicide for the family to deal with. This is the same for most citizens, in their lifetime, they will statistically never have to face or deal with this situation. Connect your lawmaker with some willing victims who will tell their story. This will get the law and policy changed the quickest. Work through your State and Local Police lobby organizations to get it through also.
 
 
How do you determine market rate for crime scene clean up?
 
1.  Ray Goins
 That would be determined by the company providing the service.
 
2.  Mike Milnor
 Again, as a law enforcement official we don't determine the rates. I think the area you are in, the number of companies offering the service, are all factors in the rates. The sure way for your victims to determine the fair rate is by calling multiple companies in the area.
 
 
How do you process a crime scene with multiple homicide victims?
 
1.  Ray Goins
 As with any crime scene, processing is layered. Multiple victims add layers to the processing. Care to prevent cross contamination of evidence should be the main focus. As I tell the academy cadets, when processing a crime scene take your time-it takes as long as it takes to do it right.
 
2.  Mike Milnor
 One victim or ten, it is a tedious process. Unfortunately we have dealt with several high profile cases such as this in Virginia with the VA Tech shooting and the mass homicides in Appomattox County. The scene is processed the same way if there is one or ten. Obviously the more victims, the longer the process. The crime scene clean-up is the same, the same process just longer the more bodies. The communication with victimís families is a must in order to keep them educated on why things are taking as long as it does and as to the process.
 
 
How long can you wait if blood is present at a crime scene prior to cleaning and processing the scene?
 
1.  Ray Goins
 The clean up can, and should, begin as soon as the scene is released. I would recommend bloody scenes be cleaned as soon as possible using the appropriate methods to prevent the transmission of blood borne pathogens.
 
2.  Mike Milnor
 There is no wait. As soon as the search warrant can be obtained to process a homicide scene, the crime scene unit starts doing its job. A lot depends on factors outside of the police agencies control, such as how soon the crime was discovered and reported. I have been on scenes where the blood was just minutes spilled and others where it had been weeks and months.
 
 
Are any agencies providing funding for meth lab clean-up?
 
1.  Ray Goins
 Crime victims compensation may cover the clean up cost if allowed by statute in the particular state. I believe the issue with meth lab clean up is a question of who the victim is. Landlords and property owners may be excluded in some cases from any government funding and may have to rely on private insurance. Many insurance companies have "illegal acts" clauses and the cost may ultimately be on the landlord/property owner.
 
2.  Mike Milnor
 There are super fund site responses under federal and state DEP agencies that offer a tiered response and clean-up for meth labs. Check with your individual state for criteria.
 
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