City of Chicago Launches New Offensive to Combat Rats

The city says rat complaints are down, but they're stepping up rat abatement patrols

The city of Chicago is ramping up efforts to control the rat population this summer, and more rat abatement crews are hitting the streets to help fight the prevalent pests.

Area residents are already seeing the fruits of that intensified push to curb the rat issue in the city. Derryl Owen, a resident of the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood, called 311 to summon crews to his area, and says that it isn’t uncommon to see rats as big as squirrels in the alley near his home.

“They are always so quick, and I think they’re out looking for food,” he says.

Michelle Hearn, another resident in the neighborhood, also called the city to complain about the rodents.

“I have small children. It’s not safe,” she says. “They are taking over these buildings.”

The crews that get called in to deal with complaints like the one in Bronzeville have a simple mission: locate the underground burrows where rats live and breed, and to leave specially-formulated bait deep inside the nests.

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“They put Rodentice pellets (into the burrows), and they cover it with paper to give us a chance to reinspect (the area),” deputy commissioner Josie Cruz says. “They could die in their burrow or on the streets, wherever it hits them.”

Even as they deploy increased patrols, the city says that rodent complaints are down so far this year after peaking at more than 16,000 in 2017.

Officials are encouraging residents not to take matters into their own hands if they have a rat problem. Instead, the Department of Sanitation is urging residents to call 311 and to request a rat abatement team to take care of the problem.

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