CHICAGO — Chicago’s rat problem is nothing new. The city has long been dubbed one of America’s “rattiest” cities. In 2022, Orkin named Chicago the rat capital of the U.S. for the eighth consecutive year.

So, what is being done to rally against the rodents?

In a joint investigation with Illinois Answers Project and Block Club Chicago, WGN Investigates looked at how the city and its residents are dealing with the problem. 

What we found is that, in extreme cases, an infestation can have a disruptive and costly effect on homeowners. And that the city’s main enforcement tool isn’t always effective at repelling the rats.

Take the Weinberger family for example. Rats have invaded the yard of their North Side home, destroying landscaping and posing a serious safety hazard.

“It was so distressing to me…that I kind of just stopped going down there and enjoying my yard,” Amanda Weinberger said.

They estimate they’ve spent about $5,000 to fix their yard and repel the rodents.

But yet the problem remains, in part, because of open garbage bins in their alley. The bins belong to a restaurant, which has never fined by the city.

Other businesses have, though.

Since 2019, the city has issued $153 million in rat-related fines. Less than 20 percent, or $27 million, has been collected, while rats continue to cash in on Chicago neighborhoods.

In all, Chicagoans lodged more than 50,000 rat-related complaints with the city last year.