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about the data

Official counts from the NYC Housing Dept.

The city of New York runs a phone service for residents to report non-emergency problems and have the proper city agency respond. Since 2005 totals for each type of complaint have been released to the public at the community district level (the most recent of which can be found here).

Plotted above are the total number of bed bug-related complaints received per-district as well as the number of violations ultimately issued by the Housing Preservation & Development dept.

Though the data collected are extensive, they cannot be considered an accurate depiction of the bed bug problem due to self-selection bias inherent in the calls. Typically, bed bug complaints only make it to 311 after the tenants have been unable to persuade their landlord to treat the problem in a timely fashion. As a result, areas with a predominance of condominums and co-ops will be underrepresented since there is no direct need for 311. Note, for example, the relative dearth of complaints from Manhattan’s Upper East Side despite its anecdotal notoriety as a ‘hot spot’.

about the data

Anonymous Reports from the Bed Bug Registry

In 2006, blogger Maciej Ceglowski created a central repository on the web for bed bug sufferers to report the details of their infestations. Since then the site has amassed thousands of reports in a half dozen North American cities.

To the left are the aggregate locations of reports in New York City over the last four years. The individual reports were grouped by year and season in which they were submitted. Each of the regions within the map corresponds to a city community district.

In examining the data it is important to remember that the reports are unverified and all data come from users who went to the trouble to seek the site out. As a result the results will tend to overemphasize net-savvy neighborhoods, perhaps (at least in part) explaining the report density in Greenpoint & Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

In addition, the site has received increasing amounts of media attention as the city-wide infestation has become more and more newsworthy. Thus any increases in report frequency may be more reflective of the site’s traffic and visibility than an increase in the number of actual infestations.


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