Chicago has a lot of dirty rats. Not necessarily the human species from James Cagney’s well-worn movie line, “You dirty rat,” although the city has been home to plenty of them some would say.
The city is overrun by real dirty rats – the furry, disease-spreading four-legged variety.
The long-tailed rodents that live in walls, attics and basements and feed off pantry goods and counter-food have been the subject of a sharp increase in complaints as of late, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The windy city has seen such a rise in call rates and sightings that officials have announced it will add two additional rodent-poisoning crews in response to the rat uprising.
Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Thomas Byrne said today that four workers from Streets and Sanitation who were on “duty disability” will join the platoon of anti-rodent special-forces that usually beat back battalions of the funky foragers throughout the city.
Though temporary in job status, the new squad of rat-pack bunker busters will remain on duty until the city manages to gain the upper hand in its war on rats. Byrne was not able to estimate how long it would take the surge to work.
Chicago’s leaders moved against the rats immediately after the Tribune reported that civilian complaints to the city's 311 center jumped 28 percent in 2012. There were 15,895 calls by the end of July despite the city increasing its rat-poisoning missions by more than 19 percent this year, to 18,339 placings.
Normally, Chicago has 15 two-person squads poisoning rats all over the city full time, and officials hope that adding two squads will give them the drop on the dirty rats.
Anne Sheahan, Streets and Sanitation spokesperson, said the surge in rat poisoning by the department’s rodent abatement teams began a few weeks back after a significant jump in complaints.
Chicago Mayor Ramh Emanuel has not yet released a statement on his city's surge in its war on rats.
However, according to the Tribune, the increase in rat population is probably linked to an “unusually mild winter,” which did not send Chicago into a deep freeze with heavy snow. The paper stopped short of linking the infestation to global warming, but Chicago’s weather normally thins the ranks of rodents each year.
Rat poisoning in the 2nd Ward spiked sharply compared to 2011, with the city increasing its rodent assaults by 176 percent. Ald. Robert Fioretti took credit for the poison campaign, saying he had requested the Department of Streets and Sanitation to find rat burrows and poison every alley in his ward.
Taking a leadership role in the mission, Fioretti called on the city to try to eliminate every dirty rat in his ward.