The Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia told city officials on Wednesday the state’s compensation programs for crime scene clean-ups lacked funding and called for policy changes.
There are companies that specialize in crime scene clean-up, however it is up to the customer to pay for the services, not the city. Prices for crime scene clean-ups range from $2,000 to $20,000 per job and is part of the reason crime scene clean-ups have not been happening enough. A bulk of these violent crimes have occurred in low income areas. The Anti-Violence Partnership found that in Philadelphia’s high homicide areas, 30-48% of the population live under the poverty line. Under the victims compensation program, residents can receive a maximum reimbursement of $500.
Unfortunately, reimbursements have been hard to come by due to the requirements. Within the program, the state ruled that only homeowners or renters will be eligible for clean-up reimbursements. That means that only crimes that happen within homes will be protected under the compensation program, although most of the murders within Philadelphia occur outside the state will not cover the costs for cleaning.
Crime in Philadelphia has reached unfathomable peaks in the past year. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, the city reported 499 homicide victims in 2020. This is the highest number of homicides since 2007, when the homicide count got to 391. Today, the department has reported that there have been 120 homicide victims up to the date March 30th, 2021. These uncleaned crime scenes have not only served as an unpleasant sight, but more importantly can have significant impacts on the health of others.
The Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia presented the effects of uncleaned crime scenes that include: psychological effects, social effects, contact with bloodborne pathogens such as Hepatitis B and C, emotional trauma, and more. The presentation to city officials included testimonies from homeowners, peers, and others who had to clean up the crime scenes themselves. Many described the experienced as traumatizing and something they could not handle. They provided vivid detail of how hard it was to clean up these crime scenes.
Possible solutions were presented to the councilmembers on how this problem can be fixed. The first recommendation was for mandated financial and logistical responsibility by city agencies to remove biohazard materials. The second recommendation was to institute trauma-informed and cultural sensitivity and policies that can improve law enforcement’s communication with homicide survivors and crime victims. The last recommendation was that resources be provided to educate and support survivors with crime scene clean-up information.
Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. asked Kathleen Buckley, a member of the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee for her thoughts.
“How do we get better at reimbursements to exceed eight?” Jones Jr. said. “We get eight in a weekend sometimes in Philadelphia.”
Buckley said that based on the requirements for the act decision-making is very limited and one of those decisions is the $500 reimbursements. She also added that although the amount within reimbursements are rather low that is the maximum the program allows so it is the best she can do within the parameters of the Crime Victims act.
Buckley added that state legislators must be the ones to help in order to expand eligibility and the amount of expenses so we can pay more. However, she did warn members of the meeting that with expenses increasing in the program there must be revenue to match it, therefore Buckley suggested more streams of revenue in order to expand or else the program will not be able to sustain itself.