MOUNT GREENWOOD — An emerging rat problem in the neighborhood can be attributed to one thing, the 19th Ward alderman said: dog poop.
"You know why rats come into certain areas? Dog feces," Ald. Matt O'Shea said at a Wednesday night town hall meeting at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. "If you put a plate of filet mignon out and you put a plate of dog crap out, in the morning, the filet mignon will still be sitting there."
A group of about 40 people — mostly seniors — gathered for the meeting in the main hallway of the school at 3857 W. 111th St.
Marian Cook lives near 116th Place and Central Park Avenue in Mount Greenwood. She was the first to bring up the topic and later said she keeps the light on in her garage overnight in an attempt to keep rats away.
Cook said several neighbors have posted messages about the rats on Facebook.
But O'Shea interjected that social media posts won't solve the problem. Calling 311 and talking to neighbors who don't clean up after their pets can have an impact, he said.
He said the city's rodent abatement crews can only address the problem in the backyard of the person who calls with a complaint. They also can put poison in public areas, including alleys.
Carol Tobin, who lives in the 3700 block of West 111th Street, said she's seen alley cats carrying dead rats nearly as big as them by their throats near her home that overlooks Mount Greenwood Park.
Tobin also babysits her grandchildren near 103rd Street and Spaulding Avenue, and she blames home construction in that area for the emergence of rats there. Her dog recently killed a large rat in her daughter's backyard, she said.
"The whole idea of rats is just dirty and disgusting," said Tobin.
Streets and Sanitation officials confirmed O'Shea's assertion that dog poop is often to blame for rodent infestation. They also said construction can sends rats scurrying to find new homes.
O'Shea said contractors who receive demolition permits in the city must present a rodent extermination plan as part of the scope of their work. He also said backyards filled with dog feces can sometimes warrant a ticket.
"If it is a ticketable offense, they will be ticketed," he said. "It's not a pretty topic, bit I stress to everyone — call 311."