RODENTS are swarming across Wearside, with pest control officers dealing with 20 vermin reports every day.
During the last three years sightings of rats and mice have prompted more than 22,000 calls to Sunderland City Council, the Echo can reveal.
Figures show Hendon as the rat capital of the city, with 1,689 rodent sightings since 2008.
Hetton is a close second with 1,626 reports, while Pallion takes third place with 1,451.
Five years ago there were 10 reports a day, but this only applied to complaints about rats.
While the council has its own pest control workers to handle the infestations, private companies are also dealing with the outbreaks.
“Rats definitely take up a lot of my time,” said Paul Ashman, of Penshaw, who owns Ashman Pest Control Services. “Especially in winter when they are looking for shelter indoors.
“They often are found in lofts and attics because they come up the drain pipe, live in the roof and then go up and down the pipe for water and food.
“I also get quite a few jobs for mice as well. But they are different to rats because they are easier to catch in traps.”
The 48-year-old said: “I’ve noticed an increase over the last few years in the number of jobs I am called out to, and I do all sorts of work from domestic to commercial jobs.”
Across the five wards of Washington, 2,108 reports were made with Washington Central totalling the most.
Jackie Marshall, 42, a mum-of-three from Usworth, said: “We had a problem with mice a couple of years ago and I ended up catching eight over the course of a few weeks.
“They were getting under a gap in the back door and heading straight for the rubbish bin. They were actually dragging cartons out and onto the floor, they even stripped a rib bone clean.
“Pest control recommended we use traps but I went through a few of them before the problem was finally solved.”
Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland Council cabinet member for safer city, said: “Sunderland City Council provides a free pest control service for the treatment of rodents in and around domestic premises, and we also carry out routine proactive treatments across the city.
“Historically this free service contributes to higher reported rodent sightings than other local authorities, some of which charge as much as £50 per call out.
“The number of reports of rodents has decreased in Sunderland by more than 1,350 in the past 12 months.
“We continue to actively encourage people to contact us if they see a rodent, and they can do so by calling 561 1661.”
Barnes - 810
Castle - 887
Copt Hill - 1108
Doxford - 848
Fulwel - 542
Hendon - 1689
Hetton - 1626
Houghton - 1070
Millfield - 1038
Pallion - 1451
Redhil - 681
Ryhope - 904
St Annes - 1309
St Chads - 571
St Michaels - 572
St Peters - 650
Sandhill - 1010
Shiney Row - 1040
Silksworth - 894
Southwick - 1188
Washington Central - 545
Washington East - 496
Washington North - 418
Washington South - 208
Washington West - 441