NEW YORK CITY – January 10, 2008 – The Health Department today unveiled a new initiative designed to dramatically reduce rodent populations. Unlike traditional efforts that are largely based on exterminating rats in response to complaints, the new program uses intensive surveillance to identify and rid neighborhoods of conditions that foster infestation. The Enhanced Rodent Control Program, the result of a yearlong review of best practices in the rodent control field, is being tested in a Bronx pilot project. If successful, it could transform pest management throughout New York City.
Dr. Bobby Corrigan, an expert in urban rodents, recently joined the Health Department to help guide this new effort. “Rats are a community problem,” said Dr. Corrigan. “There are no quick fixes, but by working together to target problem areas and attack an infestation as a city, we can make a difference. We can all start by helping to keep our streets free of food and garbage that allow rats to thrive.”
At the heart of the program is a process called rodent indexing. Armed with handheld computers, inspectors comb every block within a given neighborhood, recording signs of rodent activity and noting likely sources of food and harborage. Inspectors can visit as many as 200 properties per day, compared to the four to six under the traditional system. After logging rodent-related issues across a target area, the Health Department will address them – conducting repeated exterminations, requiring property owners to remedy rodent-friendly environments, and conducting repeat inspections until the problems are resolved.
“We’re taking rodent control to the next level,” said Dr. Jessica Leighton, Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Health. “By quickly identifying and proactively addressing hot spots, and by putting information in the hands of the community, we hope to significantly reduce the rodent population. Rats are an unfortunate and inevitable part of city life, but we are bringing new tools to this longstanding problem.”
While conducting intensive inspections, the Health Department will also engage the community. Other elements of the pilot project include:
- Improving guidance for property owners. The Health Department will quickly notify property owners of rodent issues. The agency will also provide in-depth guidance on how to prevent infestations, when to call an exterminator, and how to find a good one.
- Reaching out to residents. The Health Department will inform residents about problem areas in their neighborhoods by engaging community organizations and participating in community board meetings. The agency is also developing a website that will provide reliable information about rodent control, as well as maps and data on rodent inspections.
- Educating private exterminators: Because high-quality extermination is critical, the Department’s Rodent Academy will offer private exterminators free training on the best practices.
The Bronx pilot project builds on an existing anti-rodent initiative that the Health Department has undertaken with the City’s Department of Environmental Protection. This Bronx project will be carefully evaluated. If successful, it will be expanded to other parts of the city.