An estimated two million rats dwell in New York City, and their human neighbors have lodged a record number of complaints about them to the city’s 311 “rat hotline.” With almost two full months left in the year, the complaints have already reached a record number compared to previous years with currently more than 24,000 complaints documented.
“The rats are taking over,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a recent article. “I’m a lifelong New Yorker and I’ve never seen it this bad… I see them on my way home, they’re standing upright, they say, ‘Good morning, Mr. Comptroller.'”
In 2014, 20,545 complaints were recorded which was up from the 19,321 reported in 2013. This most current rise, according to city Health Department rodent expert, Carolyn Bragdon, is in part thanks to the addition of a mobile app component to the 311 hotline. Launched in February of 2014, she stated in the article that the app is making it easier for people to “rat out” the pests as it no longer requires them to pick up the phone and call the city’s hotline which has been operating since 2003.
“Whenever you launch a new vehicle for complaints, you tend to see increases,” Bragdon said in the article. “Over 90% of the increase in complaints was due to the app.”
However, Mr. Stringer said he does not agree, stating that instead it is “a lack of taking care of business by the city’s health department” that is really to blame.
So far this year, rat complaints consisted of 17,356 calls, 2,347 online remarks and 4,672 mobile app entries, statistics show. Last year there were 16,964 calls, 2,361 online remarks and 1,220 mobile app entries.
And that’s just above-ground rats—complaints about vermin in the subway are routed to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and not recorded by the 311 line, the article states.
Currently, New York City is spending $2.9 million to expand a pilot program to eradicate “rat reservoirs,” attacking them in the colonies they set up in parks, subways and sewers, Bragdon said in the article. Exterminators set out bait, close burrows and work with the neighboring community on best practices to avoid attracting them in the future.
“What we know from the pilot is that we have the ability to crash a rat population by 80 to 90%,” Bragdon said, adding that the city has no official estimate on rat numbers.
The estimated two million rats came last year from a Columbia University researcher who estimated the population and said it was far fewer than traditional estimates of 8 million, or one rat for every human in the city.
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