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Cleaning up after someone else’s mess – ‘Trauma Scene’ crews poised for action

By Stephen Witt

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” may be a popular television series, but in real life, after city CSI police gather evidence and finish their investigation, what’s left on public streets sometimes doesn’t get cleaned up for weeks. This is about change thanks to a recent “Trauma Scene Clean-up” bill that the City Council passed 48-1 last week. “As it stands in the law right now, the city has no standard management practices for safely cleaning up homicides, car accidents, or other traumas that occur on city property,” said Councilmember Michael Nelson, who sponsored the legislation. “Not only will this legislation create the establishment of appropriate standards for trauma scene cleanup, it will provide New Yorkers with helpful and up-to-date information on how they can safely and effectively clean their own property during these unfortunate circumstances,” he added. The legislation requires the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to establish standard practices for trauma scene management on city property. Nelson said the bill calls for a biohazard team to be called in after the CSI team leaves to ensure that blood and other material is taken care of in a professional way with the proper chemicals. This legislation also calls for the creation of a website to assist those individuals when an incident occurs on private property by providing information on how to safely clean a trauma scene and dispose of any waste. The website will additionally contain information on how it may be possible to obtain reimbursement for the cost of professional cleanup of a trauma scene. This information will also be available from first responders and 311. Nelson, who represents Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Midwood and Sheepshead Bay, said he got the idea for the legislation about five years ago after a perpetrator grabbed someone else’s gun on Avenue Y off Ocean Parkway and became involved in a shootout with cops. “There was blood all over – on the sidewalk and people’s property as well,” Nelson recalled. Nelson said after the CSI team came in and took out everything they needed, they left blood and even parts of flesh at the crime scene. If the public is lucky, someone might hose it down before the bacteria starts festering, Nelson said. Nelson noted his bill will also allow the public access to a list of certified companies that do work professionally in the removal of biohazards. The work might also be covered by insurance companies, he said. Nelson said he worked to modify the bill with both the mayor’s office and the City Council to make it acceptable on both sides of City Hall. The only council member voting against the bill was Simcha Felder, an Orthodox Jew, who opposed it out of concern that the biohazard team may come on the scene before the Orthodox community has time to take all the blood and body parts left after the CSI team leaves. Under Orthodox Jewish law, all flesh and blood must be collected to be included in the burial, Nelson said. But Nelson said his office is currently working with religious groups to ensure that proper notification is installed once a trauma scene occurs. Mayor Bloomberg is expected to sign the bill on Dec. 31.

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