In many ways rats are the quintessential urban problem. Citizens and government blame each other for the problem with more than a modicum of truth on both sides. It is a problem that the broader region ignores at its peril. The impacts fall most heavily on children, low-income families, and the African American community. The impacts are largely unseen outside the affected communities. The problem is exacerbated by other urban ills — housing, sanitation, health, and poverty — and in turn it exacerbates them. A sense of futility pervades the affected neighborhoods and the agencies that serve them.
All of the above statements could apply to a host of daunting urban problems including delinquency, crime, drug abuse, AIDS, teen pregnancy, inadequate education, poor housing and unemployment. A major difference, however, is that the solution to the rat problem is within our grasp. To make the city of Baltimore relatively rat-free will not take a tremendous infusion of funding or a tremendous change in human behavior. It will require public health education, community and governmental cooperation, sustained effort, and political will.