US

Oh, Rats! NYC official says health dept. is failing to manage pest population effectively

  • FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2005 file photo, a rat comes briefly out of its hole at a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York, before retreating at the arrival of the F train. City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014 that New York is losing the rat race. He said citizen complaints about pests to the 311 hotline plus online reports went from 22,300 in fiscal year 2012 to 24,586 the next year. (AP Photo Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

    FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2005 file photo, a rat comes briefly out of its hole at a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York, before retreating at the arrival of the F train. City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014 that New York is losing the rat race. He said citizen complaints about pests to the 311 hotline plus online reports went from 22,300 in fiscal year 2012 to 24,586 the next year. (AP Photo Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this April 26, 2013 file photo, rats are displayed in a lower Manhattan alley after being caught and killed by small hunting dogs owned a group of people who gather to let their various breeds hunt rats in New York. City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014 that New York is losing the rat race. He said citizen complaints about pests to the 311 hotline plus online reports went from 22,300 in fiscal year 2012 to 24,586 the next year. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

    FILE - In this April 26, 2013 file photo, rats are displayed in a lower Manhattan alley after being caught and killed by small hunting dogs owned a group of people who gather to let their various breeds hunt rats in New York. City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014 that New York is losing the rat race. He said citizen complaints about pests to the 311 hotline plus online reports went from 22,300 in fiscal year 2012 to 24,586 the next year. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)  (The Associated Press)

New York is losing the rat race.

Citizen complaints about pests to the 311 hotline plus online reports went from 22,300 in fiscal year 2012 to 24,586 the next year, city Comptroller Scott Stringer said Sunday.

"Rats are a daily, stomach-turning insult to New Yorkers — whether they're scurrying over people's feet on the sidewalks, invading homes where children sleep or swarming through restaurants," Stringer said.

Stringer said an audit conducted by his office found that the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene isn't managing its pest control program effectively. The audit said health inspectors didn't always follow on their own protocols, and in 160 cases, no field inspection was conducted.

"Without a vigilant and timely response by the city to citizen complaints, this problem will come back to bite us again and again," he said.

A health department spokesman told New York's Daily News that the agency "strongly disagrees" with the audit, and is taking a proactive response to exterminating pests in the city. Phone and email messages from The Associated Press requesting comment were not immediately returned on Sunday.

Auditors found that in 24 percent of the cases examined, the agency did not check out complaints within its own 10-day target, Stringer said. In addition, action was stopped prematurely on some citizen complaints before the required number of inspection attempts, according to the audit. And in fiscal year 2013, there was no indication that assessments were conducted in 44 percent of 386 instances where inspectors requested cleanup services.

The comptroller also reported that the department failed to notify some property owners about city orders to eliminate rodent conditions, increasing the risk that rat infestations could spread through a neighborhood.

The comptroller's office recommends that the health department identify complaints that have been pending a long time, ensure complaints are not closed after only one failed attempt to gain access to a site, and make sure problems in the field have been dealt with efficiently and completely.