NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There's a major pest problem in Queens.
That's where residents say raccoons have made themselves at home in several neighborhoods.
As CBS 2's Mark Morgan reports, a local lawmaker is now getting involved to combat the invasion.
Raccoons have become an annoyance in some neighborhoods and residents here want the city to remove them.
They may look warm and fuzzy, but raccoons can be a nuisance and a health risk.
"My main concern is the kids that are running around. This is a really residential neighborhood. There's a school right down the block. There's a pool," Bayside resident Alex Cho said.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has proposed a bill that would require the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to capture and remove the critters.
"It would mandate that the city has to come out, trap the animal, neuter it and then release it back into the wild someplace," Avella said.
Currently, the city's policy is to remove raccoons only if they are rabid or dead. Normally, the only obvious sign a raccoon is rabid is the animal foaming at the mouth. The Department of Health said Avella's bill is an "unfunded mandate" and that non-rabid raccoons can be controlled with community involvement.
Morgan surveyed one lot that has been vacant for seven years, and residents told him a family of raccoons has taken over and is wreaking havoc in the neighborhood.
"We're afraid to let the kids out, especially at night. People come to visit as I had said before and they're afraid of raccoons chasing them," Pearl Vazeos said.
Vazeos lives right next to the lot. She paid a private company charged more than $1,500 when raccoons took over her garage.
"It cost be a fortune to get rid of them and nobody would do anything with the city. We had to get a private person come trap them," Vazeos said.
Area residents feel they shouldn't have to battle the nocturnal masked bandits alone, and that the time for the city's involvement is now.
Senator Avella said he hopes to bring the bill to a vote in the next legislative session in Albany, at the end of August.
Do you think the city should be required to remove troublesome critters like raccoons? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.
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