WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — D.C.’s rat problem is getting worse according to new data from the Department of Health – there have been more than 16,000 complaints so far just this fiscal year.

Officials encourage more people to reach out to the Department of Health to track the rat problem in D.C. They say they can’t treat what they don’t know about.

“They’re are all around just horrible and a nuisance,” said Elizabeth Rugala.

Many people living in D.C. share Rugala’s sentiment, dealing with rats on a daily basis.

“I kicked one not long ago. It was late at night. I was walking home, didn’t get out of the way,” said Eliana Vornov. “I think my building has an exterminator who is poisoning them, so I’m always picking up dead rats off my patio.”

D.C. does have a rodent control program through D.C. Health, which is run by Gerard Brown.

“If we were not doing what we’re doing it’d be a lot worse,” Brown said.

Brown says since the pandemic, calls to 3-1-1 have skyrocketed, from 8,107 complaints in fiscal year 2020, to 16,391 as of Sept.18 in fiscal year 2023.

“They were in the restaurant areas and food areas and when they closed, they spread out to residential areas,” Brown said.

For residents experiencing issues in their apartment building, the Department of Health can inspect the outside of buildings while the Department of Buildings can inspect the inside for housing code violations.

“I’ve found several in my engine before. They’ve chewed through my lights before. Many have fallen out of my engine as I’m driving,” Rugala said.

The Department of Health has 17 certified inspectors that will respond within three days to complaints. Brown says to deal with the problem, they need to know where to look.

“If you don’t call, they multiply very quick,” Brown said.

Brown said the Department of Health doesn’t condone people going out with their dogs and cats to kill rats.

Residents who see rats in their neighborhood are encouraged to call 3-1-1.

For more information about the Rodent and Vector Control program, click here.