If you've spent time living in Boston, you may be aware that the city has a rat problem. If you've lived here since before the pandemic, then you've probably noticed the rat problem has become much worse. Rat complaints have spiked since 2020, with residents reporting the rodents in their walls, cars and even toilets. Boston was recently ranked as the 13th-most rat-filled city in the country by the Orkin Pest Control Company. In response to all this, some city officials have advocated for a new Office of Pest Control. GBH's All Things Considered host Arun Rath spoke with one of those officials, Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of their conversation.

Arun Rath: So first off, can you give us some context to understand how bad the city's rodent problem actually is?

Ed Flynn: It's a significant issue in the city of Boston. It's impacting every neighborhood, regardless of economic status, and it's a public safety issue and a quality of life issue. Residents are concerned about it and they're looking for an immediate response from the city of Boston.

Rath: I know that with the pandemic, the rat problem seem to get bad everywhere. Even in Lexington, where I live, though, it seemed like it got better. What has been the case with Boston? We got our COVID numbers down. Why can't we get the rats down?

Ed Flynn: It's an issue that needs constant attention. In Boston, we have 14 certified licensed inspectors, and they don't work on the weekends. They do a wonderful job, but we need to ensure that we dedicate resources to this issue 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that's something I'm proposing to effectively deal with this crisis.

Rath: Before we talk about the office in more detail - as someone who serves the city, the problem that rat infestations pose goes beyond just being unpleasant, right?

Flynn: It's a significant public health issue. It contributes to high asthma rates as well, especially in communities of color. Chinatown and Roxbury have some of the highest asthma rates of any neighborhood in Boston. But besides public health, it's also a public safety and quality of life issue. If you don't solve this problem or significantly reduce this problem, people will leave their apartments, sell their homes, and look for another opportunity to live where there are no rats, because it's that significant of a problem. If you have rats in your house with little kids, people are going to ask the obvious question: “When are you going to move?”

Rath: So an Office of Pest Control at the city level. Tell us about how that would work.

Flynn: My proposal is similar to New York City, where they have a standalone department that addresses pest control. This standalone department would coordinate resources and personnel services to ensure that one specific department alone deals with pest control, but also work throughout the city and with city departments and residents in the community to effectively address this issue. I think Boston officials are working on this issue, and they're doing the best job they can, but we need to ensure that a proposal like what I have recommended is heard and that residents are satisfied that Boston is doing everything we possibly can to deal with pest control issues in the city.

Rath: It seems that everyone is sick of the rat problem. How much support are you seeing for the creation of this office?

Flynn: Many of my fellow city councilors expressed support for it. Some expressed the opposite, saying we don't necessarily need that office. But I think it's a significant crisis facing our city. It's an emergency, and when we have an emergency, when we have a crisis, it's all hands on deck, ensuring we have the resources and personnel to deal effectively with this challenge. And that's what I'm proposing.

Rath: How quickly do you think this could come together?

Flynn: I expect the city of Boston will vote on this probably in the next 60 days or so. It's unlikely that this would be enacted immediately, even if it passes. But I think it's important for residents to understand that they also have a voice in this matter. If they are eager to ensure that there's a major role in city government on pest control, this is a proposal they should stand behind and support. It's important that residents' voices are heard and that we work together with residents across the city to address this public health crisis.