CITY HALL — Determined to get Chicago's exploding rat population under control, city officials Wednesday announced a new effort to get rid of the disease-ridden vermin.
The newly independent Bureau of Rodent Control will have 120 employees — and a $10.2 million budget — to reduce the number of disease-ridden critters scurrying through Chicago's streets and alleys.
Rat complaints jumped 34 percent in from Sept. 1 to Oct. 25 as compared with the same period a year ago, data complied by city officials shows.
The new effort — which will be headed by Deputy Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Josie Cruz — will feature 18 crews tracking those complaints in an effort to respond within five days, said Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams.
Last spring, there were only eight crews on duty charged with fighting the rats, records show.
Those crews will use poison where appropriate, and make sure that the area is free of trash or excrement that attracts rats, Cruz told the City Council during a hearing designed to review the department's budget.
The explosion in Chicago's rat population has been caused by two mild winters in a row and a boom in construction projects that disturbed their underground lairs, city officials said.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said complaints about rats is the No. 1 complaint that she gets from residents.
A pilot program that uses dry ice to suffocate rats underground that began in August will continue as the weather turns colder, Williams said.
"It is an additional tool, and we find it to be effective, especially near parks and pets," Williams said.
The Rodent Control Bureau will also have 46 employees charged with repairing damaged carts, which provide a buffet for rats and other scavengers, officials said.
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