Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Data Shows Mild Winter Brings Increased 311 Rodent Calls—Here and Elsewhere

This summer, the City has received an unusually high number of reports of rat sightings in Somervilleand it appears that we are not alone. Other cities that experienced a similarly mild winter are also noticing this trend, as has been reported by the press. Our SomerStat analysts took a look at the 311 call data from other cities including Chicago, New York City, and Baltimore to examine the underlying numbers.

In the following graph of 311 data from Chicago, you'll find one example of what we found. A dip in the number of rodent calls can be seen during both January 2011 and January 2012. This is normal. Rats do not hibernate, but they do tend to die off during the winter months when it is more difficult to find food. The usual moderate increase in rat sightings from April to September 2011 can also be seen. In 2012, however, a rather dramatic increase occurs during the same time period.

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The chart below shows a similarly higher spike in calls reporting rodents in Somerville to 311 this summer as compared to summer 2011. The City has received roughly 52% more rodent reports to 311 in 2012 compared to 2011.

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Like Chicago, we are tracking this problem closely and deploying our rodent control resources accordingly. The following is a real-time map of rodent calls to Somerville's 311 line. Having 311 data has allowed us to focus on problem areas, which has put Somerville at an advantage compared to cities that do not have such data. In addition to responding to resident reports, the Inspectional Services Department has been working with SomerStat to identify locations in the city where extermination and baiting efforts are most neededbefore the calls come in. (Please note: Zoom in and out of the map to see more call locations.)

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As a result, the City has significantly increased baiting efforts. To support this expanded program, the budget for rodent baiting was increased by 68% from $57,000 to $83,574 from FY2012 to FY2013. But baiting is not the only solution.

Inspectional Services, the Health Department, and the Department of Public Works continue to work closely to enforce pest management requirements (including baiting) for area food establishments, to enforce the trash ordinance for all residents and businesses, and to find best practices for controlling the rodent population. Currently, a new neighborhood-based pilot program for rodent control is being tested (more details to come on this at the fall ResiStat meetings).

Meanwhile, the public is key. To better understand how to avoid providing food and shelter to rodents, please see the new rodent page on the City website for information on what you and your neighbors can do.

1 comment:

  1. East Somerville ResidentOctober 13, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    It is necessary to understand that an area with fewer 311 calls does not mean that a substantial problem does not exist as is the case in East Somerville. Why? East Somerville where I live is home to a high low-income and/or English speaking limited populace. Residents do not know about 311, or have called once and seen little change so do not call again. They also call their absentee landlords and try to deal with the problem that way with little or no result. Our area just east of McGrath is teeming with rodents who walk the streets by day, consistently become road kill on our streets, scratch inside walls and scurry through basements and kitchens of our neighbors. Trash cans with holes are the norm and are not replaced by absentee landlords. I applaud the city's efforts to sequester off an area and attempt a large scale mitigation plan that if successful will be furled out throughout Somerville, yet, the time for waiting for a common sense plan has come and gone. Replace the trash barrels with rodent-proof approved receptacles and get landlords on board to watch over their properties whether businesses or residences. Trap, not just bait, high problem areas to break up rodent colonies and make a dent in the population. Rodents have babies every 28 days, 7 or more pups a birth. Use funds appropriated for snow removal when it's been a mild winter towards proactive rodent control. There are 10 or 20 (?) city officials telling residents of plans, and outcomes of the rodent problem, yet hundreds of residents telling the city what they are doing is not working. Behind those 311 calls are actually thousands of more calls not being made.


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