They’re small, dirty, and living in your town — rats are nearly ubiquitous across the United States. Some cities are worst than others .
Each year the pest control company Orkin ranks America’s rattiest cities based on the number of new rat treatments, including residential and public, it performed there over the year. The poll does not include local governments or pest control companies.
For nine years in a line, the city of Chicago has been crowned the champion for these little rat-like creatures. Orkin was so excited by this back-to-back winner that they released limited edition T-shirts emblazoned with the title “Top Rattiest City Chicago 2023”.
Here are the top 10 rattiest cities this year, according to Orkin:
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- Washington D.C.
- San Francisco
From poisoned food to fumigation, rat abatement methods, otherwise known as extermination, vary wildly both in approach and success.
What’s working for the rattiest cities
One method, which uses a machine to inject carbon monoxide into outdoor rat burrows, has gained popularity after being touted by New York officials as nearly 100% lethal.
Washington DC also uses this method, though they reserve it for serious infestations since the machine is difficult to lug around, Gerard Brown, program manager for rodent vector control at DC Health, told Business Insider.
To date, Detroit has had 1,851 rat complaints this year, compared to 2,577 in 2022 and 2,894 in 2021, she said.
” “We could be on our way to being ranked as the second rattiest city,” Johnson stated.
Other towns, such as Denver, choose a defensive approach. When a rat complaint is lodged in the city, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment sends someone to the location to seal rat burrows and figure out how to cut off food and water supply, Amber Campbell, a public information officer at DDPHE, told BI in an email.
Most governments offer similar services, which dispatch exterminators into homes and business to investigate rodent complaints. What they do when they get there varies, but having face-to-face contact with citizens is helpful to educate them on how to manage their waste.
The only solution to the rat issue is for people to take action and change their behaviour, according Brown of DC vector control. He’s not sure how Orkin comes up with their figures, but he says that each year the list reignites public attention to rodents. This gives cities a great opportunity to make people listen.
What’s not working for cities
The biggest battle that cities face in the rat war is one that we all have to participate in — managing trash. Most pest experts emphasize that if trash, food, and water were properly managed, there wouldn’t be a rodent problem.
This can be especially difficult in cities on the waterfront, like Cleveland, San Francisco, or New York, because there’s a constant source of hydration for the pests.
In Los Angeles, Baltimore, and DC, officials have said that the pandemic led to an increase in trash at home from people working from home, which has led to more critters invading personal space.
There are other, more acute factors that may make one year more ratty than the next.
Rats have been blamed on construction in recent years for rat infestations both in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Construction can uproot the critters from their underground burrows and send them skittering across streets and sidewalks.
Other, more bureaucratic issues might make it more difficult to manage rats, like not having enough employees to address rat complaints.
For example, an investigation by the nonprofit newsroom Block Club Chicago in collaboration with Illinois Answers Project and WGN Investigates, reported that the city’s departments were stretched too thin to deal with the more than 50,000 rat complaints they got per year.
“We’re outnumbered at this point. We’re way outnumbered,” Janelle Iaccino, marketing director for Rose Pest Control in Chicago, told Block Club.
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