City adds two crews to deal with rat complaints
By John Byrne
August 22, 2012
The city will add two crews to its rodent poisoning teams to respond to a spike in the number of rat complaints around Chicago.
Four Streets and Sanitation workers who are on duty disability will be brought back to work to join the 15 two-person crews already putting out poison around the city, Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Thomas Byrne said today.
The new crews are temporary and will be on the job until the numbers of rodent complaints start to come down. Byrne would not estimate how long that will take. The money to pay for the four additional workers will come from the Streets and Sanitation Department's existing budget, he said.
The move comes after the Tribune reported today that complaints about rats to the city's 311 center are up 28 percent this year, to 15,895 through the end of July. The city also has increased its instances of putting out rat poison by more than 19 percent this year, to 18,339.
But Streets and Sanitation spokeswoman Anne Sheahan said the department has been moving for several weeks to add rodent abatement teams in response to the jump in complaints.
Urban animal experts told the Tribune the increase in the city's rat population is likely due to the unusually mild winter, which didn't provide the normal Chicago deep freeze and heavy snow which typically kills off many of the rodents each year.
The 2nd Ward saw the biggest percentage increase in rat poison cases compared to 2011, a 176 percent jump. But Ald. Robert Fioretti ascribed that to his request to the Department of Streets and Sanitation to search for rat burrows and put out poison in every alley in his ward.
"We don't have a comprehensive way of dealing with this, where we're addressing the problem citywide," Fioretti said. "So I went ahead and put in requests for all my alleys, which is the best way I have to try to nip the problem in the bud."
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