Fight Rats With DOH Citizen-Assisted Reporting

Residents Can Submit Photos of Commercial Trash Problems for DOH to Ticket

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Department of Health (DOH) Program Manager for Rodent and Vector Control Gerard Brown speaks to the September 11th meeting of ANC 6B.

At the September 11th meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B, Department of Health (DOH) Program Manager for Rodent and Vector Control Gerard Brown invited residents to use the Citizen Assisted Enforcement Program to report issues with commercial trash storage.

Rats are attracted to properties that provide food and shelter, Brown said, so to get rid of them you have to eliminate the sources. Food is often easily accessible via garbage cans or dumpsters without tightly fitted lids.

The program is specifically designed to address problems with overflowing or poorly secured commercial trash bins that take place outside DOH business hours and so cannot be observed by staff. 

Brown said that often rats can feed at overflowing or insecure trash containers overnight. However, many of these are emptied in the early morning hours by private contractors, before the workday begins for the Code Enforcement Officers who would observe the violation and issue a ticket and fine.

When I was here the last time, a lot of residents came in with pictures of trash overflowing in bins, and –outside the box—we’re trying to think of you guys helping us through a Citizen Assist Program.”

Program Expanding

Last year, Brown worked together with two Co-Chairs of the ANC 6B Outreach & Constituent Services Task Force (OCSTF) Jennifer Samolyk (6B01) and then-Commissioner Diane Hoskins (6B02) to pilot the program. The program is specifically applicable to commercial, rather than residential, trash infractions.

The program is now expanding. Brown said the new supervisor for code enforcement is now able to handle the increase in workload that could accompany the expansion.

The program allows residents to take date-timed photos of the infractions and send them in to DOH, who can then determine if they should issue an infraction and fine of up to $500. Residents doing so would have to be willing to volunteer as a witness if there is an appeal that leads to a hearing on the issue.

“Most of the time, when they see the pictures of the trash overflowing, it is hard to deny,” Brown said, “so most of the time, you won’t have to appear at a hearing.”

Brown also drew attention to the expansion of programs and staff made possible by an increase of nearly $1 million in funding included last year’s budget. The funds will allow him to hire four new staff members. He also said that the duties of two positions, Code Enforcement and Pest Control, will be merged so that one DOH employee can both cite violations and perform abatement, lending greater efficiency to the war on rats.

How to Participate in the Citizen-Assisted Enforcement Program

  1. Document any sanitation violations on commercial properties, such as overflowing dumpsters, damaged trash containers, or grease not properly stored with date-stamped photographs clearly showing the location, a written description of the issue and your name and address.
  2. Forward the documentation to the Jermaine Matthews, Supervisor of DOH Code Enforcement Division at Jermaine.matthews@dc.gov.
  3. The DOH Rodent and Vector Control, Code Enforcement supervisor will review documentation to determine if documentation supports a Notice of Infraction (NOI).
  4. If a violation is determined, the supervisor will prepare an NOI to be issued by first class mail to the owner of record.
  5. The resident that provided the documentation will be listed as a witness on the Witness Evidence List that is submitted to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
  6. Witnesses will receive future communications from OAH, such as Scheduling Orders, Final Orders, and Dismissal Orders.   
  7. Witnesses will be required to attend and scheduled hearings along with DOH staff to testify.

 This piece has been updated to clarify that the program applies to commercial trash infractions (rather than residential). The Hill Rag regrets any confusion.