Crime shows often show several gory details about the process of forensic science. They feature scientists picking up body parts and analyzing blood splatter, but they do not show everything. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at what crime shows leave out to protect viewers from the genuine horror of crime scenes.
After the forensics department visits the murder scene to analyze the bullet holes in the walls and the blood splatters on the floor, they return a few days later to a tidy room. They don’t show the other crew that comes in to do the crime scene cleanup process, which is a tedious process that wipes away the gory details.
The employees who clean up the messes aren’t afraid to see the remnants of death. They often clean up gunshot residue, bloody bathtubs, and maggots.
Television shows can be feasts for the eyes and ears, with vivid details and precisely selected music. What crime shows do not, and cannot, include is the smell of the death scene. Often the odors in the home are not only from the crime but hazardous materials as well since crime scene cleaning crews take care of any biohazard they uncover.
Crime scene cleaning crews must cover their bodies with Tyvek suits. They wear booties, taped gloves, rubber gloves, and a mask that covers the head, eyes, and mouth. The head covering has a filter so the wearers can breathe, but it also lets in horrible smells. Viewers do not want to experience all the sensations from the crime scene – especially the odors associated with death.
Cleaning crews describe the smell as something that turns stomachs and causes eyes to water. It’s so strong that it enters through the filters in the bio suits the cleaning crews wear.
Depending on the decompensation levels and the amount of mess, crime scene cleaning times can be anywhere from ten hours to two weeks. If the victim has been dead for a while, the cleaning process takes longer because decomposition leaves a mess that requires deeper cleaning with several chemicals.
If animals enter the crime scene, they often leave droppings and other biohazards that need to be cleaned. Homes with hardwood floors increase the cleaning time as blood and body parts get into the cracks between the planks.
Many people think the police clean up the crime scene. Instead, the cleaning process is the responsibility of the survivors. If they cannot afford to hire a cleaning crew, they have to take care of the mess, which is a traumatizing event. Life insurance can help reduce the costs associated with cleaning crime scenes, but it isn’t always available.
Crime show writers craft television programs with realistic stories, and many have a satisfying ending where the criminal is caught. While they often show the crime scene when the police arrive, crime show writers only share part of the story.