Rodent warning signs can be seen in a Chicago alley, on Mar. 13, 2019. Photo Taken by Matthew Mata.
By MATTHEW MATA
For the fourth straight year, Chicago was recently rated the “rattiest” city in America by Orkin, a national pest-control and treatment company. The annual report is based on the number of new rodent treatments performed throughout the year and describes how urban areas, such as Chicago, can provide thriving environments for rodents as it is a resource for food and shelter. Consequently, city data corroborates Orkin’s ranking of Chicago.
According to Chicago Data Portal, Chicago’s 311, the city’s hotline for non-emergency assistance for city services and programing has seen an increase in rat complaints and service request. Rodent related service request for 2016 and 2017 each reached over 50,000 request.
At a November 2017 press conference Mayor Emanuel said the city’s 2018 budget adds additional funding for five more crews to those already baiting as well as funding for an additional 10,000 new black garbage carts in efforts to mitigate the city’s rat problem. In addition to additional crew and carts, the city continues its practice of using dry ice in areas deemed rodent hotspots in hopes to suffocate the rodents.
Donna Kaluzna is a former Chicago Streets and Sanitation employee who believes the rapid development throughout the city is to blame for the rat complaints in Chicago.
“You know we go out and have to investigate reported rat sightings and they’re not just in alleys like most people think. Yes, we treat alleys but they are all close to areas where there was construction going on. All these new buildings and street construction, you know it’s messing up their (rats) homes.”
Despite Chicago’s ranking and historic complaints over the last few years, Kaluzna remains optimistic.
“I mean look at 2018 it’s lower. Yeah the previous few years were a bit high, but we (Department of Streets and Sanitation) took steps and its working and I hope it’ll continue to work.”
In 2018 the city received 39,026 request for rat abatement services, according to the city’s Data Portal, a decrease of 23 percent compared to the previous two years.
For some Chicagoans, it will take time for the city to prove it is tough on rats. Hailey Cox, a renter in the city’s 35th Ward, which covers parts of Logan Square, Irving Park, and Avondale, says she dreads anything that requires her to go in her alley.
“I’ve lived in this area since I was a kid and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older and now noticing but rats sighting are now a regular experience.”
Cox says the warmer weather is when she sees them the most. She credits the increase of street festivals and overall littering making it a perfect place for rodents to seek out food. According to the City Data Portal data, the “rattiest” times of the year in Chicago, are during the months of July through September, 119,893 complaints were called in to 311’s service request center during those months between 2011 to 2018. That is an overwhelming 37.6 percent of total 311 rodent related calls during that 2011 to 2018 time period. Months January through March, the years first quarter, yielded the least rodent service requests totaling 45,430 or 14 percent of total 311 rodent related calls during 2011 to 2018.
Department of Street and Sanitation Commissioner John Tully could not be reached for comment.