City Adding More Rat Control Teams

CHICAGO (CBS) — With complaints about rodents on the rise, city crews are stepping up efforts to target rats.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation has added 10 new crews to its Bureau of Rodent Control. There are now 28 such teams, more than double the number of teams at the start of 2015, thanks also to five crews added earlier under the mayor’s 2016 budget plan.

“You’re never going to eradicate rodents completely. They’re going to be here. What we want to do is control that population,” Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams said.

Complaints about rats are up by two-thirds during the first three months of the year, compared to the same period of last year.

“Whenever you have a mild winter, they’re somewhat busy; coupled with increased construction sites can exacerbate the problem,” he said.

The announcement about the new rodent control crews was made just blocks away from the old Children’s Memorial Hospital, which is slated to be demolished soon, likely sending hundreds of rats scurrying into the streets as they search for new homes.

The mayor also has created a new Rodent Task Force to assist with rat baiting, enforce preventative ordinances, and find additional resources to assist with rodent control in neighborhoods with high levels of complaints.

The goal is to see that all rodent complaints are addressed within five days.

Williams said some people treat rats as pets, making the rodent problem that much worse.

“We’ve actually had incidents of folks dropping food by their burrows. Please don’t do that,” he said.

The commissioner said some people end up feeding inadvertently feeding rats by not picking up after their dogs.

“The number one food source for rodents is dog droppings,” he said.

CBS 2’s Brad Edwards reports they’re not only disgusting rodents, they’re destroying property.

“They’re living under our decks, they’re living under our streets, they are digging holes,” said Sarah Rodriguez. “They’re everywhere.”

Gianna Rodriguez shot video of the emboldened critters.

“They just run around,” she said. “We took a video from outside our window. It’s disgusting.”

Orkin says Chicago is America’s rattiest city.

Lori Kim and three of her neighbors temporarily lost cars because the rats ate the wiring.

“There’s been about three or four other cars on the street that needed to be towed,” she said. “It was all rats chewing through wires. It’s so much fun.”

Last year, the city began enforcing a new ordinance requiring developers to set up rat bait around construction sites from start to finish.

“Every construction project in the city – whether a single-family house or a high-rise – has to have a rodent abatement plan that features above-ground bait boxes surrounding the perimeter of the site throughout the time that excavation begins until the construction is completely out of the ground. There’s no major city in the United States that has that provision,” Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) said.

The alderman said everyone has a part to play in keeping rats under control.

“Restaurants have obligations, construction sites have obligations, and we as citizens have obligaitons,” she said.

Williams said the city’s rat problem is not as bad as it was in the 1970s and 1980s, when the city was dealing with a population of so-called “super rats.”

Chicago residents who see rats or a place where they might be feeding – such as open garbage bins – should call 311 to report the problem.

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