NEW YORK: A record 24,000-plus rat complaints have been made in New York so far this year as authorities step up their war against the vermin that roam subways, sewers and parks.
City hall attributed the increase in complaints to the success of a new smartphone app, launched in February, that makes filing complaints easier, rather than an increase in the number of rodents.
Last year, New York City recorded 20,000 complaints over the same period and city comptroller Scott Stringer sounded alarm bells that the city was losing the rat war.
“Rats are one New York City institution that we’re happy to get rid of,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement, saying that the authorities were fighting rats in all five boroughs.
“We’re cracking down on rats in neighbourhoods across the five boroughs and helping improve New Yorkers’ health and quality of life in the process,” said de Blasio.
The health department has upped spending from US$400,000 (RM1.71mil) to US$2.9mil (RM12.46mil) and increased staff from nine to 50 on a program that has reduced rat sightings by 80% to 90% in some areas.
A year ago, Stringer denounced rats as “a daily, stomach-turning insult to New Yorkers.”
“Without a vigilant and timely response by the city to citizen complaints, this problem will come back to bite us again and again,” he warned in October 2014.
One rat shot to Internet stardom last month when filmed walking down the stairs of a subway station with a slice of pizza in its mouth. The viral YouTube hit has been viewed nearly eight million times.
But how many are there? Legend has it that there as many rats as humans – 8.4 million – but Columbia University statistician Jonathan Auerbach last year debunked the myth, estimating the number of rats at two million. — AFP