CHICAGO (CBS) — Rat poison might still be the best way to get rid of scurrying vermin, but knowing where to place the bait is a big challenge, one city officials believe can be solved with a 21st century approach: computerized data analysis.

WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports Chicago plans to expand citywide with a computer program designed to find the best spots to place poison to kill rats.

Chief Information Officer Brenna Berman said, in the past, city crews spent too much time during the day figuring out where to go to lay down bait, based on conditions they’d seen on the streets, hunches, or past experience.

“Now, instead of spending that amount of time determining where they should go, based on things like intuition or waiting for calls to come in from residents, that time is replaced by the work the system is doing,” she said.

Nine months ago, the city began small-scale testing of a computer program designed to predict where the rodents would turn up before they actually appeared.

The program analyzes 31 factors from non-rat-related calls to 311 – including complaints about stray animals or vacant lots – in an effort to determine where and when crews should place poison bait.

“Those variables include different things; like restaurant complaints, like trash overflowing in a dumpster, but it’s 31 variables that come together in a specific relationship seven days ahead of time that indicate when the rat-baiting crew should go out,” she said.

The city said crews now spend 20 percent more of their day actually setting rat bait because of the program.

Berman said city officials are convinced the computer program should be used to determine rat baiting citywide.

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