Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) led a demonstration in Dupont Circle to address the concerns of Washington, D.C. residents surrounding the city’s growing rodent and vermin population Monday.
The walk, which attracted about 100 participants, was one in a series of “results walks,” in which Bowser, local leaders and agency officials walk through District neighborhoods to listen to complaints and comments from area residents. Bowser said her administration is taking a proactive approach toward combating infestations across the city.
“Rats are an issue I take very seriously and my team is being innovative, proactive, and strategic in our approach,” Bowser wrote in a news release on Monday. “Like many cities across the country, Washington DC has seen an increase in the number of rodent reports over the past several years, but through better analytics, smart technology, and broader community outreach, we are meeting the challenge.”
According to the District’s 311 city services helpline, rodent sighting complaints saw a 65 percent increase during the 2016 fiscal year, with 3,200 complaints filed across the District. The helpline attributed the city’s growing rodent population to a number of factors, including warmer winters, during which fewer rats freeze to death, in addition to the District’s growing population, which generates more garbage that pests feed on.
Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) also attended the walk, encouraging District community members to work together to address the rodent population.
“I’m walking in Dupont Circle with Mayor Bowser to focus on DC’s rat problem. I encourage residents to call @311DCgov & @DOHDC when they see rats around their homes and neighborhood,” Evans said in a tweet Monday. “We move toward a healthier DC when we work together to prevent the spread of the rat population.”
According to D.C.’s Department of Health, city residents can do their part to address the city’s rat problem by disposing of garbage in heavy metal or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids, storing pet food in secured containers and removing weeds and other debris from yards where rats can hide.
The walk also brought together a growing number of rodent-related services available to District residents. Bowser highlighted The Lab @ D.C.’s Rodent Abatement Predictive Analysis project, an initiative that will use 311 data to develop predictive models that recognize locations of rodent infestation to better inform exterminators.
Other initiatives include a $13,500 grant from the Department of Small and Local Business Development to help District businesses purchase commercial trash compacters to keep rodents out of city dumpsters. The DSLBD has identified 29 grantees to receive funding.
Additionally, the Department of Health has distributed 25 solar trash cans and 400 “smart litter bins” in all eight wards of the city. These solar powered bins compact trash and keep rodents out of garbage, while also helping D.C. businesses save electricity.
The rat walk was part of Bowser’s #BacktoBasicsDC initiative, which focuses on ensuring that District residents have access to city services and highlights the day-to-day work of city employees. This effort has included programming such as Form-a-Palooza, an event in which city residents were able to seek help and provide feedback on filling out forms for local and federal assistance; the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program and UequalsU, a program that confirms HIV-positive District residents take their medication on a daily basis.