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City comptroller: NYC losing the "rat race," health dept. disagrees

new york city rats City Comptroller Scott Stringer said an audit shows the health department needs to do more to combat the city's rat problem. Photo credit: Getty Images

Rat complaints were up last year, and according to an audit done by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, the health department needs to step up their pest control game.

“This is a rat race we’re all losing and it’s one that affects our quality of life,” Stringer said in a media release. “When people discover infestations in their homes and on their blocks, they expect a quick and effective response. Our audit found that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene wasn’t managing its pest control program effectively, even as the number of complaints about pests grew.”

The number of rat complaints jumped from 22,300 in 2012 to 24,586 in 2013, according to the comptroller’s office.

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The audit examined the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s response to rat complaints from July 2011 to April 2014. The health department receives complaints via an online form or 311, then assigns the complaint to a regional office to check out and clean up, if necessary.

Audit numbers show that 24 percent of all complaints went unanswered within 10 days, which is the department’s appropriate response time.

NYC Rat stats. Credit: Billy Becerra, Metro NYC Rat stats. Credit: Billy Becerra, Metro

Out of the 24,586 complaints, 160 cases were never inspected, and 14 still had an open status earlier this year. The audit found some complaints were closed prematurely, and recommended an overall “more timely response” in order to keep rat populations from growing and spreading.

The full audit can be read here.

A health department statement sent on Monday said they "strongly disagree" with the comptroller's audit.

"We believe the auditors reached incorrect conclusions because they focused only on complaints while ignoring the fact that complaint response is a small part of the department's overall approach to discovering where rats are present, notifying owners about how to respond, and carrying out targeted efforts to exterminate and prevent rats from reemerging. By not considering the larger program, many recommendations would lead to less efficient use of personnel and agency resources," the statement read.

The health department said they perform more than 120,000 annual inspections, the majority of them "proactive, non-complaint based inspections."

 
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