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from The Boston Herald


Citizens horrified as rats overrun downtown Lynn

by Kay Lazar
Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Hordes of rats, some described as being as big as cats, are scurrying around Lynn, unnerving residents and prompting city officials to launch an all-out search and destroy mission.

``I've seen two of them that I thought were cats. That's how big they are getting,'' said Gail Latimer, 43, about the rats she saw recently when she left work around 6 p.m. on Union Street in downtown Lynn.

``They are bold. They want to walk amongst the people,'' Latimer said.

``That's bold.''

An overhaul of the city's sewers, combined with a major demolition downtown, have stirred the rodents and riled residents, said city officials.

``It's a double whammy,'' said Jamie Marsh, a spokesman for Lynn Mayor Chip Clancy.

Marsh said a year-long project to repair sewer overflows in Lynn has prompted sporadic calls to City Hall about rats.

But when crews recently demolished and cleared away rubble from a five-story building that burned down last August on Union Street, the phones at City Hall really started ringing.

``We have directed the Water Department to go down into the sewers to bait the rats with poison,'' Marsh said.

``We're directing our health inspectors to pay close attention to dumpsters, to keeping them closed, and to keep tabs on ticket writing and fines for people who don't do so.''

Manuel Nunez, who opened a Spanish restaurant a couple of years ago on Union Street, said businesses in the area have joined together and hired exterminators to fight the infestation.

Nunez's restaurant is across the street from where the former Hoffman's department store burned down last August.

Three Lynn teenagers, ages 13, 14, and 16, confessed to setting the fire that destroyed a city block and caused $1 million in damage.

The boys told police they broke into the vacant Hoffman's building at 222 Union St. and set the fire with gasoline.

Nunez said the rats appeared to take up residence in the charred remains because it was left for months.

``The building was not cleared up for a year. . . and that seemed to contribute quite a bit to the infestation,'' Nunez said.

Certainly one long-timer in the neighborhood agreed that things have gotten hairy lately.

``We never had rats in this area. Never. And I was like, `Wow, where are all of these things coming from,''' said Leannie, a 20-year resident who asked that her last name not be used.

``It's like these rats are all around us,'' Leannie said.

``Everyone has bought barrels to put their trash in to keep them out of the trash, and they still don't seem to be getting any better.''

City Hall has been sending out letters to residents, urging them to seal their trash in barrels with lids, in an effort to starve the rats out.

``Education, education, education is the key to keeping the population down,'' said Marsh. ``You've got to cut off the food supply, just like with ants in your house.

``Once you cut off the food supply, they leave.''

Copyright by the Boston Herald and Herald Interative Advertising Systems, Inc.

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