The Arizona Department of Economic Security Is Infested With Rats (Literally)

New Times Photo-Illustration using PhotoFunia text generator. Source: Smiley Faces, Department of Economic Security; Mice, Wikimedia Commons.
Arizona's Department of Economic Security is dealing with a serious rodent problem at their child support office on 51st Avenue in Phoenix.

An individual who works for DES at that location and asked to remain anonymous tells Phoenix New Times that the building is "infested with mice and rats."

It's been that way for at least six months, the DES employee added. And people who work in the building have been calling out sick with flu-like symptoms ever since. Some worry that the rodents are causing the illness.

"I don't know if it's related, but not a day goes by" without someone "calling in sick," the tipster said.

Worst of all, the office is a "Bring Your Baby To Work" building, part of Governor Doug Ducey's much-touted program that allows parents to bring newborns between the ages of 4 weeks to 6 months to work with them.

"There’s one woman who actually brings her baby in here — I wouldn't do that," our anonymous source said.

Tasya Peterson, DES's director of communications, confirmed that the building has a rodent problem.

"DES leases this particular location, and after receiving reports of pests, has been working with the lessor to eliminate them, including setting traps outside the building in an attempt to catch the rodents before they enter," she wrote in an e-mail.

"Both DES and the lessor have borne the costs of pest control charges, with the lessor paying the majority of the costs. We take this seriously and will continue to work with the lessor and neighboring entities to eliminate the problem."

Property records show that the building, which is located at 515 North 51st Avenue, is owned by Phoenix Van Buren Properties LLC, which also owns several neighboring properties. The building that DES leases also holds a Goodwill clearance outlet.

click to enlarge
Mouse traps have been placed under nearly every desk in DES' 51st Avenue building.
Provided anonymously
New Times reached out to Jim Harrison, Jr., who's listed in corporate filings as the manager for the LLC, to see if he wanted to comment. He responded by sending over a series of inspection reports showing that Arrow Exterminators had put out traps and sprayed for bedbugs, but found no activity. 

According to the anonymous DES employee, who sent along photographic evidence, mouse traps have been placed under nearly every single desk in the building.

But that hasn't assuaged workers' concerns about catching one of the many diseases that can be transmitted by rodents.

And since people at the child support office deal primarily with hard-copy paperwork, working from home isn't an option.

"They should move us to a new building until they get it figured out," the employee said.

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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.