Bedbugs found at Philadelphia police station

Posted: July 12, 2011

Police officers across the city are being warned of a frustratingly stubborn enemy that has infiltrated their workplace: bedbugs.

An infestation was discovered last week in the building in Mayfair that houses the Second and 15th Police Districts and the Northeast Detective Division.

The bedbugs came to light after inmates in several holding cells were bitten, said Roosevelt Poplar, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 5.

An exterminator treated the infested areas twice, and the department's administration is closely monitoring the situation, said Lt. Raymond Evers of the Public Affairs Unit.

Joan Schlotterbeck, the city's public property commissioner, said that one inmate had brought the bugs to the building and that an exterminator believed the infestation was confined to three cells.

Those cells have wooden benches that are different from those in other units, she said. They will be removed.

The cell block has been evacuated. Cells will be power-washed, crevices will be sealed, and the walls will be repainted, Schlotterbeck said.

"At this point, we believe we're doing everything we can," Schlotterbeck said.

Poplar said the entire building at Harbison Avenue and Levick Street should have been treated for bedbugs. About 500 officers work out of the building, he said, and the bugs may have hitched rides with inmates who were transferred.

"These bugs, they can be carried on people," he said. "They can be carried in a car, to another district. The holding cells have people coming in and out all day long. We're talking about potentially thousands of people who could be affected by this."

Officers will be asked to report any signs of infestation. Employees who wish to take extra precautions can wash and dry their clothes as soon as they get home from work, Schlotterbeck said.

Poplar said several officers had told him that they might have unknowingly carried bugs home in their clothing. "These guys are under enough stress as it is without worrying about taking bugs home to their families," he said.

The bedbug resurgence began about 10 years ago in hotels and apartment buildings in large cities nationwide. The bloodsucking insects are known for resilience. Clothes and other belongings must be heated to extreme temperatures to kill them, and the bugs can hide in wooden furniture or baseboards for a year without food.

Though New York City has been seen as the center of the scourge, the problem is on the rise here. Terminix, the national exterminating company, this year ranked Philadelphia fifth among U.S. cities for bedbugs, with New York still in first.


Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.

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