ENGLEWOOD — The rats in the 7000 block of South Parnell Avenue have become a problem, Ruthie Shivers said. A big problem.
Shivers, 83, said she no longer barbecues or lets her small dog, Bella, play in her backyard.
"I'm afraid if I let her in the backyard she will be attacked by those rats," she said.
The rodents of Parnell Avenue have found a safe haven in an abandoned property next to Shivers' home, one of several on the block, she said. And the abandoned plot has become an illegal dumping ground. Furniture, tires and several bags of trash were scattered throughout the yard Friday.
"This house has been abandoned for at least five years, and no one has been here to cut the grass or do anything but throw trash in the backyard," Shivers said. "And now all that trash has attracted big rats. Not your ordinary rats, but rats so big it has all the cats scared."
Shivers has seen rats she said are nearly the size of a cat. Several deep holes in the ground are also visible in the alley behind Shivers, which she said are rat holes.
Another resident on the block, Elizabeth Cooper, who has lived in Englewood with her husband Albert for more than 50 years, said she is afraid to come out at night.
“I have seen rats run around here in my backyard. This has been an ongoing problem, and it is getting worse,” said Cooper, 86.
Apparently, the city's Streets and Sanitation Department is unable to help.
Residents said they have called the Streets and San several times since July, but nothing has happened.
"All they say is 'We'll look into it and get back to you.' One time I was told when I called that it is the owner's responsibility to clean up the site," Shivers said.
Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for Streets and San, said he didn't know what residents were told and did not know if the city has the authority to clean up private property. He said he'd look into the problem.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said it is true that the city cannot trespass on private property to clean it up, even if it's abandoned.
"The city does not have the manpower to go around cleaning up every private property not kept up by its owner," Sawyer said. "I understand that living next to an abandoned building filled with trash is not an ideal living situation, but if the property is privately owned, it is the owner's responsibility to maintain the property."
He said any solution the city might provide would only be temporary.
"The city could put poison down, but unless you cut off a rodent's food supply, the problem will continue," Sawyer said.
In addition to boarded-up homes, several vacant lots sit on the block. Flies swarm overflowing garbage cans in alleys. Residents complained that if the problem were in a more affluent neighborhood, the rodents and garbage would be cleaned up immediately.
"People Downtown think because we live in Englewood we are a bunch of savages, [that] we do not care about where we live, but they are wrong," said Robert Coley, 62. "The city could easily come out here and clean up these lots and send the bill to the owner. But because it's Englewood, they have a 'I couldn't-care-less' attitude. We pay taxes, too, and deserve better."