Masked bandits have invaded a northeast Bronx neighborhood, and residents say they’re pretty much helpless to stop them.
In this case, the garbage-stealing bandits are raccoons.
“The raccoons come here like bad guys,” said longtime Baychester resident Phonseto Neil, adding “they’re getting worse.”
Frustrated neighbors along East 218th Street complained the menacing varmints - said to be a family of five - regularly rummage garbage bins, scuttle about the streets and leave their mess atop neighbor’s roofs.
The quality-of-life issue has been happening for years, according to helpless residents.
“Late night they come out,” said Rodney Taylor, another resident. “They know how to intimidate.”
And they know how to make themselves at home.
Taylor said neighbors have spotted the plump pests holed up in an abandoned home scattered with garbage. A phone number to the property manager was disconnected.
Resident Shante Brown, a childcare worker, said the black and grey raccoons - known for their signature bandit masks - “live here”.
“They set up shop in your basement, take over everything,” said Brown, who’s seen raccoons shimmy their way along pipes.
But Andy King, a 15-year resident and potential City Council candidate, had a more dangerous encounter with the pesky creatures.
At a recent cookout in his backyard, King’s granddaughter Kaitlyn was cornered by one of the rodents. Screaming wildly, Kaitlyn rushed into her home, only to have the creatures claw at the backdoor.
Since the incident, King’s backyard has remained off limits, allowing the raccoons to roam free.
Looking to remedy the problem, King said he was given the runaround when he called the city’s 311 service hotline. It ultimately referred him to private trappers outside the boroughs that charge hundreds of dollars to nail the overgrown rodents.
And while King is considering calling a trapper, neighbors along the working-class street won’t get help from the city.
That’s because trapping raccoons is the responsibility of the homeowner, according to city officials.
“Property owners are advised to seek services from a New York State Department of Environment Conservation-approved exterminator,” said city health department spokeswoman Alexandra Waldhorn.
Health officials, with help from Animal Care & Control, will only step in if the animal poses a health scare to the public, she said.
But King said local raccoon activity has reached the point where they should be considered a nuisance.
“When they’re tearing up property, they should fall under the nuisance law,” he said, referring to a citywide mandate that quashes quality-of-life issues if they get out of control.
So far the problem is not as widespread as it is in Baychester, according to city officials.
“I’ve never heard of raccoons ‘terrorizing a neighborhood’,” said Marianne Anderson, Pelham Bay Park Administrator. The state Department of Environmental Conservation - which provides licenses for certified trappers - said the best thing homeowners can do is keep food sources out of a raccoons claws.
They too get involved if a raccoon is known to be rabid.
Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383