Ridding the city of rats

November 18, 2008 3:15:37 PM PST
Rats are pretty common in large cities like New York. But now, the Department of Health is trying out a program to help keep the population in check."I go around they are too big they're like alley cats," Jose Zelaya said.

Zelay says the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line. That is, when there's a rat in his path.

"This is an example if the garbage isn't picked up," he said. "They're going to get in there."

The New York City Department of Health recently launched the Rat Information Portal for people like Jose. It breaks down cases by property and gives details about findings and responses.

People we talked to from the Melrose and Mott Haven sections of the Bronx say it's helpful, but obviously not a silver bullet.

"There's rats everywhere, there's always going to be rats anywhere there's garbage and filth," Mott Haven resident Reginald Thomas said. "They need to keep things clean."

The Department of Health is using the Bronx as a sort of case study to see if this information helps get rid of rats. So far, the department has conducted 65,000 inspections in the borough this year alone, compared to 25,000 in the other boroughs combined.

So here's how the 2007 numbers break down. Manhattan had upwards of 3,700 cases. The Bronx fell between 3,000 and 3,700. Brooklyn had 1,500 to 3,000 properties with rat cases. Queens capped at 3,000, and Staten Island had less than 350 cases.

Daniel Kass, from the health department, points out it's unfair to compare boroughs because some neighborhoods have a higher tolerance for the problem and don't report it. But he says it's a good first step.

"You can always manage a rat problem," he said. "Will we rid the city of the Norway rat? No. Can we manage it? Reduce the numbers? Make life more bearable in some neighborhoods? Without a question."

The health department believes once the word gets around, the rats will get their eviction notices.

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STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Carolina Leid

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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