Say no to gore:
Companies clean up at crime scenes

A handful of private companies around the country are cleaning up on crime  literally  by mopping up the blood and gore left at suicide and homicide scenes.

With the murder rate rising in Baltimore  160 homicides so far this year, compared with 147 during the same period in 1995  Ray Barnes, the owner of Crime Scene Cleanup, says business has never been better.

Barnes, a former investigator with the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office, started the company in 1994 with his wife, who ran a maid service. Wearing gas masks and high-tech gear to protect themselves from HIV and other blood-borne pathogens, Barnes and his six employees are called in by people to rid their homes of the visible signs of crime.

Business has been so good that Crime Scene Cleanup, based in Fallston, Md., just outside of Baltimore, is expanding. Satellite offices have been opened in Washington, D.C., where the homicide toll is ahead of last years pace, and Philadelphia, and the company also serves other parts of Maryland and New Jersey.

“You could have someone who would shoot themselves in the head with a .38,” said Barnes. “That, in some cases, would not be very messy. But some people prefer to shoot themselves with a shotgun, in which case you have the whole room saturated.”

Police often recommend Barnes’s company or similar services to families after investigations have been conducted. The company’s rates begin at $275 per visit and vary with the size of the job. The costliest to date was $6,500.

In a case last year, Barnes and his crew cleaned up after a Middlesex, Md., man set off a bomb in his car, killing himself, his wife and their three children.

Barnes, who utilizes the services of a medical-waste company to dispose of body parts, said the major concern in his line of work is coming in contact with blood.

“One mistake could be a death sentence, and not a quick death,” he said.

“People involved in violent crimes tend to have a greater incidence of blood-borne pathogens,” noted Dr. Robert E. Hirschtick, an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “You are often talking about a lot of chronic drug use.”

The Chicago area is home to several companies similar to Crime Scene Cleanup. Jim Abraham, the owner of Bio-Response in Orland Park, Ill., is described as a pioneer in the fledgling industry. “It’s just like working with radiation,” he said.

Mathew Klujian, of Mathew Klujian and Sons Cleaning, said that when tragedy occurs, families want everything clean, not just the area where the incident took place. “After a scene,” he said, “people have a really eerie feeling about anything and everything.”


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Published in Law Enforcement News
Nov. 30, 1996.
© 1996, LEN Inc.