Help Desk: Who cleans the scene?

Betty Loper holds a piece of the bumper from the car that killed her husband, Greg, during a hit and run. (Gianna Vadino / Staff Photographer)

NEARLY TWO weeks ago, Gregory Loper was killed, allegedly by a driver with a history of driving under the influence, on Lehigh Avenue in Kensington. After the paramedics took Loper's body, the scene remained grim. On the sidewalk in front of Roy and Lessie Appenzeller's rowhouse lay Loper's overcoat, equipment used by the paramedics and large bloodstains.

"Everything was just left on the sidewalk," Lessie Appenzeller said.

The Appenzellers and their neighbors were shocked and saddened by the accident, but the end of the night - bloodstains still on the pavement - led to an inevitable question: "What are we supposed to do about this?"

Obviously, in a situation like this, quality-of-life issues take a back seat to the much deeper tragedy. But, like the Appenzellers and their neighbors, we wanted to know: Whose responsibility is it to clean up crime scenes?

When the Appenzellers asked cops on the scene what they should do, the cops told them they would call the Fire Department, which would wash the sidewalk.

But the Fire Department didn't show up that night or the following morning. So the Appenzellers and their neighbors took it upon themselves to clean up the scene.

"I didn't think anyone was going to come out and do anything," Roy Appenzeller said, and neighbors wanted to get the job done before the children on the block awoke.

THE SCENE SHOULD HAVE BEEN CLEANED: We called police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers to ask him about crime-scene cleanups. They're done largely on a case-by-case basis, Evers said.

If the crime occurs inside a home, cleanup falls to the homeowner. If it occurs outside a home, a police supervisor will assess the situation and make a judgment call about whether to have the Fire Department "wash down" the street (or just have the police do it themselves).

Evers said that police should try their best to make a crime scene as clean as possible.

Still, it doesn't mean that it always gets done, Evers said. Depending on circumstances, like weather or the Fire Department's availability, it could take some time.

Evers said that this particular situation, in which the crime scene languished overnight, simply wasn't right.

"I'm not sure who dropped the ball," Evers said. 

Evers said that if you ever find yourself in this situation - and we hope you don't - you should call either 9-1-1 or your local police district to ask for help.

NO "NO PARKING": On a much lighter note, this week we learned that here in Philly, not all parking signs are created equal.

Let's do a rundown.

Two-hour parking? Take that seriously.

Reserved handicapped parking? Gotta listen to that one.

No parking on a weekday afternoon because of street-cleaning? If you're on a residential street, ignore it!

They're relics of another time, one when our residential streets still got the special treatment: mechanical cleaning.

If you'll recall, Mayor Nutter axed residential street-cleaning, along with some other services, to save money at the end of budget-troubled 2008.

Yet you can still find signs about residential street-cleaning up and down 13th Street in South Philly, and in Queen Village, too. (Elsewhere? Let us know.)

Of course, plenty of Philadelphians got smart and realized that the street cleaners (and, thus, the parking-enforcement officers) were never going to come. Street-cleaning? they wondered. Our streets don't look that clean.

They risked it for one day and realized: The signs are bluffing. We can park here in peace.

But not everyone was so bold. Dave Leichter, who used to live in Queen Village, says that he always made sure to move his car in time for the phantom street-cleaning. Even though he noticed that no one else seemed to worry, he didn't want to chance it.

And, besides, what's the point of a sign that's just plain wrong?

The Streets Department admits that though it tried to get rid of all those street-cleaning signs, it may have missed some. You can call 3-1-1 to report them, and someone should come out and remove them.

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