Secret Swabs - Public buildings - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Secret Swabs - Public buildings

13 stories tall, more than 420-thousand square feet, between three and four thousand visitors daily.

The Criminal Justice Center is Shelby County's busiest building.

People like Shameka Joiner believe it could be a lot cleaner.

Joiner says, "Like, the floors need buffing and everything--they don't really take care of the place at all."

Concerns like hers led Action News Five to put 201 Poplar to the Secret Swabs Test.

"Like right now, we should see somebody out cleaning up and there's nobody out here," continues Joiner. 

The CJC was not the only public building we wanted to check for cleanliness.

Action News Five hit Memphis City Hall and the Benjamin Hooks Central Library as well.

Acting as a normal news crew, it was easy to infiltrate city hall and the CJC.

We were more covert inside the library--breaking out our hidden camera.

In each case, Action News Five used sterile sponges and a pair of gloves to wipe down various surfaces.

From handrails, to seating, elevator buttons to door handles.

We even tested a few book binders inside the library.

Basically, if people touch it, we swabbed it!

Microbiologist Connie Cook took it from there.

She collects the samples and grows bacteria on these special plates.

Cook says, "It's higher than what I would consider just trace."

She's talking about the levels of one certain bacteria living on surfaces inside the CJC.

Cook continues, "The CJC showed 90 colony-forming units per swab on the Staph Aureus."

Staph Aureus comes from the nasal membrane and is usually found in the stuff that winds up on your handkerchief--it can cause major infection if exposed to a cut or scratch.

Only trace amounts of E-Coli and other fecal-related nastiness showed up in all three public buildings.

The Staph inside the CJC was the only bacteria we found.

Action News Five wanted to get the building manager's reaction.

Someone there told me to call the county's spokesperson.

She referred us to this building.

That's where Joe Braswell works.

Braswell told Action News Five's Jason Miles..."Jason, we'll do the very best we can."

He tells me 17 full time custodial workers clean the CJC day and night, using a variety of cleaners, bleaches, and sanitizers.

Braswell continues, "But we cannot stop and search people who have bacteria or whatever else they're bringing in the building--we just can't do it."

He says it's a lot easier to keep weapons out of the building than bacteria.

But Shameka Joiner believes our test proves her point.

Joiner says, "Yea, they need to do a better job--really they do."

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