Baltimore starts new alley sweeping program.

A new program launches Aug. 18 to clean Baltimore alleyways. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun / March 19, 2014)

More than 25,000 Baltimore households are included in a new alley sweeping program that kicks off Aug. 18 and is intended to help clean up the city and decrease the rat population in some neighborhoods.

Residents will receive fliers beginning Monday to describe the new program, which starts in the Belair-Edison neighborhood in the Northeast and Panway-Braddish neighborhood in the West.

The city spent $525,000 for the purchase of three street sweeping vehicles, which will remove loose trash, grit, dirt, oil and other chemicals.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she’s proud of the city's latest investment that will help bring the city one step closer to reaching her goal of growing Baltimore by 10,000 families.

"You have to give those families committed to this city more reasons to stay, and this is the latest initiative to making Baltimore a cleaner and greener city," she said.

The alleys must be free of large items, such as trash cans and vehicles for the machines to move through, Valentina Ukwuoma, head of the Bureau of Solid Waste, said. But rather than taking a punitive approach, crews are expected to knock on residents' doors if vehicles are in the way, she said. Neighbors also will be given signs they can post to remind the neighborhood that the cleaning crews are coming through.

The street sweeping machines will visit alleyways on the business day following a neighborhood’s weekly trash collection. The sweepers will visit neighborhoods also including Reservoir Hill, Pigtown, McElderry Park and Mondawmin.

Ukwuoma said the program also will allow the agency to operate more efficiently. The trucks can be operated by a single driver, rather than a crew of two or more that had been used to clean the alleys.

This is the city's first scheduled alley cleanup, Ukwuoma said.

"It is a proactive strategy," she said.

The alley clearing builds on the city's new street sweeping program that launched in April. Under that initiative, neighborhoods far from downtown began receiving regular street sweeping for the first time.

The city is now sweeping 2,000 additional miles of street every two weeks. Further expansion is planned for October.

"We've always believed cleaning the city involves different approaches: Municipal trash cans, rat control, street sweeping and now scheduled, proactive alley cleaning," Ukwuoma said.