NEW YORK - If you've noticed more rats running around on the streets of New York City, you are not alone. Rat sightings are up and they are everywhere, according to city officials.
Through April of this year, people have called in some 7,425 rat sightings to the city's 311 service request line. That's up from 6,150 reports, an increase of about 20%, during the same period last year.
"As the emergency phase of the pandemic has waned, we’ve ramped up inspections to pre-pandemic rates, but it will take a few seasons before we see the impact on the city’s rat population," the Department of Health told Fox 5 News.
Timothy Wong, the technical director of pest management company MMPC, said he hasn't seen this much rat activity in about two decades.
"You're getting reports of rats in yards, in front yards, inside cars eating up their wires," Wong said. "You're seeing rats going into people's outdoor dining spaces."
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Wong said his phone hasn't stopped ringing.
"We've seen probably over 300% increase in complaints and inquiries on treating rats," he said.
Wong said rodents just want to eat — and a lot food is out there for them to feast on, especially now with outdoor dining.
"There is some regulation in terms of making sure there's enough airflow and how an outdoor dining shack is created but there's no real guidelines on how they should be built," Wong said. "So some of them are on platforms, and so underneath the platform is hollow. So you have another place where rats can hide in there."
And the garbage bags pilled up on the sidewalks don't help either.
Wong and his team are using new technology to kill rats but he said they can't do it alone.
The Department of Sanitation said it has recently launched a waste containerization pilot program to test how sealed containers could be used for residential and commercial garbage.