CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s official: 2021 is now the rattiest year in the history of Chicago.

Morning Insider Tim McNicholas has been tracking a surge in complaints that, over the past couple weeks, became record-breaking.

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Kathleen Walsh isn’t just taking out the trash. She’s disposing of her victims.

“These were 3 of the guys that I got,” she said after three rats ran into the traps strategically placed in her back yard in Bridgeport. “I went out this past Sunday, and I spent $300 on bait boxes, rat poisoning, and traps.”

She’s not the only one waging war.

We burrowed through public records and discovered a record-breaking 53,000 rat complaints so far in 2021.

That’s right. The city of Chicago has fielded more rat complaints this year than any other year in the history of the city, and there’s still two months left on the year.

“I think it all started back in the in the beginning of the pandemic,” said Janelle Iaccino, of Rose Pest Solutions.

Iaccino said restaurants shut down, people stayed in, and food piled up in residential trash cans; causing rats to move—and then settle.

“Now we’ve got rats’ exploded populations in residential neighborhoods that never had them before,” she said.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation said you can fight the problem by keeping your garbage in secured containers and reporting rats to 311.

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“I tripled my coverage,” Walsh said.

She is hoping the battle of Bridgeport is nearly over.

“We cannot remove the rat problem. We can only keep it down to a workable number. And we cannot ask the city to magically fix it, because that’s impossible,” she said.

For the 7th straight year, the pest control company Orkin crowned Chicago the “rattiest city” in the US.

That would make 2021 the rattiest year in the history of the rattiest city.

The city says other factors for the surge include more backyard gardens, and new pet owners who aren’t always cleaning up after dogs.

Streets and Sanitation recenlty opened two rodent control offices to help them handle rat complaints.

Asked if the city anticipates the frequency of rat complaints to continue, or to go down next year, a Streets and Sanitation spokesperson issued the following statement: 

“The Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS) is dedicated to keeping Chicago clean and healthy, and we continue to proactively address rodent abatement as a free service to residents while responding to the increase in complaints since the onset of Covid-19. DSS crews are out working with residents each day to bait alleys and backyards and we are reallocating our resources to help ensure adequate coverage. Recently, we opened two new regional rodent control offices, bringing our total to three offices: South Side, North Side and Central. We will continue to initiate new strategies for rodent abatement until we see a decrease in the number of rodent complaints citywide.”

We also asked if there’s anything Chicagoans should keep in mind during the upcoming winter months to keep rats out of their homes and garages.

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Residents are encouraged to do the following to keep out rats:

  • keep garbage in tightly covered bins
  • seal up access into their homes and garages
  • immediately clean up pet excrement
  • remove pet and bird food from their yards
  • remove debris and heavy vegetation, including harvesting vegetable from gardens in a timely manner

Tim McNicholas