Rat infestation in South Philadelphia causes thousands of dollars in car damages

A Philadelphia neighborhood is dealing with a serious rat infestation that has cost residents thousands of dollars in car damages.

FOX 29’s Steve Keeley spoke to residents and city officials about the rat problem that one owner described as "apocalyptic." 

"I was shocked cause I didn't know if it was a rat. I thought it was a cat or a possum," said Jose Pantoja, Watts Street resident. 

"You can hear them screaming making rat noises. It's so creepy," said BJ Barretta, Watts Street homeowner.

The latest string of car break-ins in the city has happened on Watts Street in South Philadelphia and rats are the culprits. We call it ‘Rat-jacking.’

Ron Wesson had his check engine lights flashing when he got into his BMW,  that he parked on Watts Street and wondered what was wrong.

"I popped the hood and saw a bunch of garbage and thought something melted on top of the engine," recalled Wesson. "And then I saw a rat fall down and it was absolutely insane. I never saw anything like that before." 

When asked how big the rat was, he responded, "I'm not even lying, a small cat."

Everyone Keeley spoke to on Watts Street told FOX 29 all about their rat run-ins, thousands of dollars on rat-caused car repair bills and that awful smell.

"Got a report from my mechanic that I needed to get 2600 dollars worth of work on it and he said he could tell it was rodent damage," said Andy Liberatorscioli, Watts Street resident. 

"I had rats in two cars," said Barretta, Watts Street homeowner. "One car was completely damaged with rat urine and fences. I had to get an expert to come out and professionally clean it."

"We have been in close contact with some of the property owners on South Broad Street…their trash area faces Watts Street and are working with them, the city vector, to bait that area and try to get it under control," said Mark Squilla, City Councilman. "Our goal is to make sure trash is stored properly and if not stored properly there will be clear sequences and fines associated with it."