NYC is Losing The ‘Rat’ Race

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At a press conference this week, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer unveiled findings of a new audit showing widespread deficiencies in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) response to citizen complaints about rodents.

“This is a rat race we’re all losing and it’s one that affects our quality of life,” Stringer said. “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 pest complaints in New York City jumped from 22,300 in 2012 to 24,586 in 2013. The comptroller’s audit examined whether one of the agencies primarily responsible for pest control, the DOHMH, adequately followed its procedures for addressing pest control complaints during the period from July 1, 2011 through April 8, 2014.

DOHMH receives pest complaints online and through New York City’s 311 complaints call system, which are then assigned to one of five regional offices for inspection and notification, as well as the baiting and clean-up of properties if owners fail to act.

Auditors found DOHMH had weak oversight of its Pest Control Services program and failed to follow its own procedures.

In 24 percent of the cases examined, DOHMH failed to check out citizen complaints in the 10-day target that it has established as the proper time in which to respond.

In 160 cases, there was no field inspection attempt at all and 14 still had an open status in DOHMH’s system as of March 2014.

DOHMH terminated action on some citizen complaints prematurely without conducting the required number of inspection attempts and did not meet its own targets for reviewing inspections performed in the field.

There was no indication that assessments were conducted in 44 percent of 386 instances where inspectors requested clean up services during 2013, a required step before remediation can proceed.

DOHMH also failed to give some property owners notifications of city orders to eliminate rodent conditions – thus increasing the risk that rat infestations may spread through a neighborhood.

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

In a series of recommendations, auditors said DOHMH should generate reports to identify complaints that have been pending too long, to ensure citizens get a more timely response.

The agency should improve its controls over pest control processes, to ensure that all requested exterminations and approved clean-ups are conducted.

It was also recommended that DOHMH modify its procedures to en-

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten of $343 million in heating and home Department of Health and Human Services.

The two senators had joined a bipartisan group of 46 senators in urging HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to release Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funding as quickly as possible, to ensure more families can access the resources they need to heat their homes this winter.

Without these federal resources, households nationwide may have been subject to cuts in federal heating aid during this year’s winter months.

“No one should ever have to choose between putting food on the table and heating their homes,” Schumer said. “With winter’s cold and high energy prices right around the corner, families and seniors across upstate New York need help paying their heating costs. This massive infusion of federal funding right to the pockets of New Yorkers who need it most will provide critical relief to those residents facing the tough choice between food and heat this winter season. This funding will help keep more than a million New Yorkers out of the freezing cold this winter, and I will always fight for as much support as possible for this vital program.” . Gillibrand announced this week the release energy assistance funds from the U.S. sure that complaints are not closed after only one failed attempt to gain access to a site. They should also make certain that supervisory checks are conducted for inspections at or above the percentage specified in its procedures to ensure that problems in the field have been dealt with efficiently and completely.

In response to the comptroller’s audit, DOHMH generally agreed in principle with all but one of the audit’s 12 recommendations, stating that the audit did not take into account the agency’s other efforts to address pest control problems.

“When it comes to rat infestations, New Yorkers expect much more from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene than excuses and denials. I fully expect this audit will help trigger a new, more serious course of action,” Stringer said.

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