E-RAT-ica­tion pi­lot pro­gram a “suc­cess” in tar­geted neigh­bor­hoods

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By: GIANNA DECARLO gde­carlo@ches­pub.com

In April, Bal­ti­more County un­veiled an ex­ten­sive rat erad­i­ca­tion pi­lot pro­gram meant to tar­get nine com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing Mid­dle­sex and Hawthorne.

Based on a three-phased ap­proach, the plan in­cluded in­ten­sive ex­ter­mi­na­tion treat­ment, in­creased trash pick-up, and ed­u­ca­tional fol­low-up meant to elim­i­nate rat pop­u­la­tions over an eight-week pe­riod.

“We have been work­ing closely with the County Coun­cil and com­mu­nity mem­bers over the past few months to take a fresh look at how the County can con­trol the rat pop­u­la­tion. We be­lieve that this multi-pronged

ap­proach will yield re­sults, and by cre­at­ing a pi­lot in 9 tar­geted neigh­bor­hoods, we can eval­u­ate its ef­fec­tive­ness be­fore ex­pand­ing to other com­mu­ni­ties,” said Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz dur­ing the an­nounce­ment.

Code En­force­ment Co­or­di­na­tor Adam Whit­lock said that while hard data isn’t yet avail­able about the pro­gram’s suc­cess, he has been hear­ing rave re­views from res­i­dents in the af­fected neigh­bor­hoods.

“We’ve been hear­ing a lot of feed­back from the com­mu­nity and res­i­dents who say it all has been suc­cess­ful, they’ve been see­ing re­ally pos­i­tive re­sults,” he said.

The first stage in­volves a crew from Re­gional Pest Man­age­ment, a lo­cal com­pany, walk­ing through al­leys and back­yards, search­ing for ev­i­dence of rat ac­tiv­ity, like bur­rows or drop­pings. Let­ters will be handed out to res­i­dents, let­ting them know when and where ex­ter­mi­na­tion crews will be by. If there are signs of an in­fes­ta­tion, ex­ter­mi­na­tors will place poi­son, in ei­ther pow­der or pel­let form, into the bur­row. Fol­low­ing this ini­tial ap­pli­ca­tion, ex­ter­mi­na­tion crews will mon­i­tor and check up on the prop­erty, ap­ply­ing more treat­ments as needed.

“Ev­ery­thing is ba­si­cally done un­der­ground be­cause that’s the safest and most ef­fec­tive method for an­i­mals and chil­dren in the area,” said Whit­lock.

If your prop­erty has been treated, a red rib­bon will be placed on your door. If your prop­erty didn’t show any signs of rats, it will be a green rib­bon.

The sec­ond phase is pre­ven­ta­tive, re­mov­ing trash, a food source for rats, more fre­quently with two-timesa-week garbage pick-up. The third stage is in­creas­ing ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for res­i­dents, in­clud­ing rat-re­lated in­for­ma­tion ses­sions, com­mu­nity clean-ups, and con­tin­ued com­mu­ni­ca­tion with as­so­ci­a­tions and res­i­dents.

While he said many res­i­dents don’t need much con­vinc­ing that rats are a blight, Whit­lock ex­plained that they are not only a health con­cern and can carry other pests like fleas, but they can re­duce prop­erty val­ues and can eas­ily spread to other houses and neigh­bor­hoods.

The nine ar­eas were cho­sen based on anal­y­sis by Code En­force­ment of­fi­cials and dis­cus­sions with County Coun­cil mem­bers and com­mu­nity lead­ers.

“We looked at where we have done prior ex­ter­mi­na­tion ser­vices over the years. These are some of the hot­but­ton ar­eas that we’ve seen a lot of rat ac­tiv­ity and where we’ve got­ten a lot of com­plaints around rat-re­lated is­sues,” said Whit­lock. “You kind of get to know where you have rat prob­lems and you know the con­di­tions there. These places cer­tainly need it.”

Other tar­geted neigh­bor­hoods in­clude Col­gate, Berk­shire, West In­ver­ness, and Hil­len­dale.

“We’re mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion. When they see some­thing they work to make sure the prob­lem is taken care of. I’d say it’s def­i­nitely work­ing,” said Ed Kramer of the Hawthorne Civic As­so­ci­a­tion, one of the or­ga­ni­za­tions that Whit­lock has per­son­ally worked with dur­ing the plan­ning stages of the pi­lot pro­grams.

Kramer said that the com­mu­nity’s big­gest chal­lenge in tackling the rat prob­lem is changing the res­i­dents’ mind and be­hav­ior. A sim- ple act, he ex­plained, such as prop­erly se­cur­ing your trash can, will help keep rats at bay.

“Code en­force­ment and fines alone have not been as ef­fec­tive as de­sired. Part­ner­ships like this and com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion must be part of the so­lu­tion to our trash and ro­dent prob­lems, and give us pride in our neigh­bor­hoods,” said Kamenetz.

Mov­ing for­ward, Whit­lock said mem­bers of Code En­force­ment will con­tinue sweep­ing the neigh­bor­hoods, work­ing with com­mu­nity groups like Kramer’s, and is­su­ing ci­ta­tions to house­holds leav­ing out food sources for rats to pre­vent fu­ture prob­lems.

The ex­ter­mi­na­tion process is ex­pected to cost $170,000 and the in­creased trash col­lec­tion for the tar­geted ar­eas will cost $600,000 an­nu­ally, adding up to a $770,000 price tag for the en­tire pi­lot pro­gram.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the rat erad­i­ca­tion pro­gram and rat pre­ven­tion, visit www.bal­ti­more­coun­tymd.gov/Agen­cies/per­mits/ratat­tack.

PHOTO BY VIR­GINIA TERHUNE

Mid­dle­sex res­i­dent Cliff O’Con­nell (right) holds a sign that says “Mid­dle­sex Com­mu­nity No Rats Zone” at a County Coun­cil meet­ing on Mon­day March 7, in Tow­son. For the last five Leg­isla­tive Ses­sions of the Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil, res­i­dents of the 6th and 7th Coun­cil Dis­tricts as­sem­bled in the Coun­cil Cham­bers to voice con­cerns about rat in­fes­ta­tions in their neigh­bor­hoods.

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