Some Baltimore residents want Rat Rubout efforts redoubled

City's fall rodent sweeps weren't effective, they say

April 15, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Like most of his neighbors, Terry Smith takes precautions.

He doesn't put his trash out until Thursday, the designated garbage day for his West Ostend Street house, he keeps his yard free of trash and dog feces, and he makes sure his dog Brandy's food bowl isn't left outside overnight.

But, Smith, a public safety advocate for the Southwest Empowerment Zone, said rats still rule South Baltimore's streets.

Gloria Morton has lived in the same house in Franklin Square for all of her 65 years. The Social Security Administration secretary said rats have always been a neighborhood problem, but conditions have worsened in the past five years. Fed-up, she has resorted to setting out cayenne pepper and Alka Seltzer as poison.

Smith's and Morton's communities were swept for rats by the Department of Public Works last fall. They think the city's Rat Rubout program has failed.

City officials say they sympathize and promise to get back to those communities as soon as they can. First they have to contend with the first sweep of the rest of the city. Then, they'll deal with formal complaints filed with their office.

Since rodent control was transferred in July from the Department of Housing and Community Development to public works, Rat Rubout's staff has doubled to 22 and its budget increased to $505,000.

Director of Public Works George G. Balog said workers will target the city's estimated 600,000 rats in four steps -- neighborhoods will be cleaned, poison will be sealed in burrows, educational fliers will be posted and rodent control will be enforced, meaning people will be cited for unsanitary living conditions. It takes two to four weeks to complete each neighborhood.

Since September, sweeps have been completed in 15 Southwest and West Baltimore neighborhoods. Rat exterminating forces are in Butchers Hill, Fells Point and Little Italy. Balog expects the group to travel north and northeast by summer's end, and start a second city sweep this fall.

Since starting the program last fall, Balog said complaints have dropped from 600 to 60 a week.

Kurt Kocher, public works spokesman, said sanitation police have issued 13,000 citations of up to $200 since January 1998.

Smith, however, thinks more should be done. After signs were posted to inform residents about baiting, he said he and neighbors saw few changes -- other than a few dead rats in the allies behind their homes.

"You could come down here on a warm evening to go rat hunting and not go 5 feet," Smith said. "I'm not a rat expert, but they need to do it on a monthly basis for a year straight."

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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