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#559 Online: Why Chicago is Losing the War on Rats


Casey Toner (he/him), Illinois Answers Project reporter

An Illinois Answers Project and Block Club Chicago investigation found that since the beginning of the pandemic, record rat complaints have overwhelmed the City of Chicago’s services.

More than 50,000 rat complaints were filed across the city last year, which is slightly down from the past two years, but is still more complaints than all other years dating back to 2010. With the rat problem stretching their services thin, the city’s short-staffed Bureau of Rodent Control has been days or weeks late in responding to complaints, prompting the city’s Inspector General’s office to audit the department.

The data-heavy investigation focused on the people who live with rats, other shortcomings in city services, and the city’s methods of enforcement. In one instance, companies managed by a north suburban woman incurred more than $15 million in unpaid, rat-related tickets on Chicago properties.