The solution is a battery-powered white box. Developed by the aptly named Rat Trap, the top of the box is baited with seeds and nuts, which the rat will climb a ladder to eat. When the rat reaches a weight-sensitive platform, it rotates and the rat falls into a water/alcohol-based solution, which kills it.
According to Rat Trap’s website, once the rat hits the solution it becomes “instantly unconscious.”
Among the benefits of the Ekomille is there is no scent and no decaying. Comparatively, other rat traps that don’t block the smell of decomposing carcasses signals danger to other rats, who stay away from the area.
The Ekomille’s alcohol solution masks the smell, so the rats will continually be attracted to the trap's bait.
Over the past month, Borough Hall has served as a testing ground for the new traps. At the end of the trial run, 107 rats were caught.
"When you look at the mechanism, you'll see why this cost effective, humane treatment has shown us a way to really address this issue of rat infestation in the city,” Adams said.
Adams noted that the rat population throughout the city has been increasing. At last week’s press conference, he highlighted data from Rentokill showing how in 24 months, a rat population’s high reproduction rate can turn 90 rats into over 34 million.
“When you’re feeling as though you’re seeing an increase in rats, it is not your imagination,” Adams said. “It is real, and the numbers are going to continue to increase,” Adams said.
Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo said Bed-Stuy has “the highest rat infestation of the entire city." She attributes the increase to an increase in development projects, and said the issue can be addressed by a proactive collaboration between the city and property owners.
Councilman Robert Cornegy called the devices an “environmentally friendly device” that can improve the quality of life for residents, especially those in NYCHA housing, who see higher amounts of rats than most other city residents.
The machines, which weigh roughly fifteen pounds, are serviced by Rat Trap for between $300 and $400 a month. Each machine can hold up to 80 rats and has a counter on the back.
According to Anthony Giaquinto of Rat Trap, in initial tests rat populations decreased.
At the end of Thursday’s press conference, the cover for one of the traps was lifted to reveal dozens of rat carcasses, now bloated and slightly green in color, floating on their backs.
But not everyone is convinced of the “humane” aspect of the traps.
Voters for Animal Rights sent a letter “representing over 60,000 New York City humane voters” to Adams expresing their concerns about the demonstration.
“We call for a forward-thinking, comprehensive, and truly compassionate approach to addressing the presence of rats in our city,” the letter read. “As stated by a noted rodentologist, any veterinarian in the world would tell you that drowning is an incredibly inhumane way to kill a mammal.”
Their solution, instead, is “fertility control contraception and sterilization for rats.”
They pointed to gentrification, overdevelopment, and poor sanitation practices as primary causes to the rat multiplication, saying that birth control is an “effective long-term approach.”
Adams counters that the rat population need to be limited immediately. Methods like sterilization are “not feasible” from an economic or practical perspective at this time.
“This is a crisis,” Adams said. “We’re dealing with families that are traumatized.”
In a statement, the Department of Health said its Neighborhood Rat Reduction Program emphasizes prevention, rather than waiting for rats to breed and infest neighborhoods.
They reported positive results based on containing trash, adding pickups to remove garbage, and fixing structures that allow rats to move freely.
Going forward, Adams plans to take the results of the trial run to various city departments, reach out to City Council members, and then get City Hall on board.
“We believe this will be a long-term investment,” said Adams.