The city of Columbus will move its rat-control efforts from Clintonville to North Linden.
City workers soon will begin assessing the neighborhood, looking for telltale signs of a rodent problem at residential properties. They'll be searching for gnaw marks, droppings, burrows, paw prints, hair and other identifying characteristics, said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for Columbus Public Health.
Health employees will talk to property owners and residents whose customs seem to be attracting the rodents, such as leaving out birdseed, dog food, water sources -- anything that makes it easier for rats to survive and repopulate.
Workers also will be looking for rat habitats, such as furniture set outside or unattended wood piles.
In the meantime, the city will send out mailers with tips to prevent attraction of rats or get rid of them, Rodriguez said.
Jennifer Adair, chairwoman of the North Linden Area Commission, said she believes the neighborhood's rat issue is overshadowed by other problems in the community, such as the number of abandoned houses.
"I think people just have to understand how they're contributing to the rat problem through their composting, gardening, not picking up their leaves, things of that nature," Adair said. "It's neighbors cooperating and the city taking care of its properties and us all working together on it."
Rodriguez said rats won't disappear but their populations can be controlled.
"Unfortunately, rats are part of every major urban region," he said. "Our goal is to minimize their presence in our neighborhoods by working closely with the neighborhood leaders and residents."
The city started beefing up its rat-control efforts in the fall, when Clintonville residents complained about an increase in the number of rodents. That assessment was confirmed after an inspection found evidence of rat activity in 35 percent of the properties.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends intervention if rats are found in 2 percent of properties. The city also looked at Harrison West, where rats were detected in 5 percent of properties in a small area, and South Linden, which showed evidence of infestation in 11 percent of the properties.
Property owners who don't eradicate the problem could be cited into Environmental Court, but that's not the city's objective, Rodriguez said.
"Our goal is to work with residents to help eliminate those elements that may attract rodents," he said.
Rats can carry pathogens that can be transmitted to humans but, fortunately, there's been no evidence of any rodent-related diseases in central Ohio for several decades, Rodriguez said.
"We understand rats are a quality of life issue in our neighborhoods," he said.
Kristopher Keller, a member of the Clintonville Area Commission, who got the city to take a look at his area's rodent problem last year, said neighbors are reporting fewer rat sightings.
The city said it plans to follow up in Clintonville this summer.
"I think there was a lot of improvement after last year's push to educate," Keller said. "I think people were aware there was a problem and the survey the city did brought a lot of attention to the issue."