Officers found more than 90 people crammed into a Houston home on Friday, some of them showing symptoms of Covid-19, in what was under investigation as a possible human trafficking case , according to Houston police.
Houston Police Department Deputy Chief Daryn Edwards said police received overnight information about a possible kidnapping, which led them to a two-story house in southwest Houston.
Inside the house, Chief Edwards said, officials found more than 90 people “all huddled together.” Of those inside the house, about five were women and the rest were men. The youngest in the house were in their twenties and the oldest appeared in their thirties, Chief Edwards said.
“It’s obviously not something we see often, but it’s disturbing,” said the chief, adding that the scene had struck him as “more of a smuggling thing and not a trafficking thing.”
No one in the house appears to have been seriously injured, he said.
Officials were working on Friday afternoon to determine how many people inside the house may have been smuggled victims, Chief Edwards said.
Before officials can move those inside the house, Chief Edwards said, they would need to be tested for the coronavirus by the local health department as some people inside the house were showing symptoms of Covid-19, including fever and inability to taste or smell. .
Police were also bringing food to the house because people inside had told authorities they had not eaten “in a while,” Chief Edwards said.
Department of Homeland Security investigators were at the scene to assess the possibility of human trafficking, he added.
Chief Edwards said the department is seeking help from the community to help reduce crime in Houston, including asking residents to call police when they see suspicious activity.
“Even if there is any doubt, give us a call,” said Chief Edwards. “We need the community to be able to talk to us and work with us to resolve incidents.”
In a similar case in December, a 36-year-old Honduran was arrested on suspicion of having “housed” 29 people in a house in southwest Houston that had “closed windows and deadbolts on interior doors. According to the United States. South Texas District Attorney’s Office.
After one person fled the house and contacted police, authorities found 28 men and a woman in the house, according to federal prosecutors. People inside the house are believed to be from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Cuba, the office said.
The man who was arrested, Mauro Dominguez-Maldonado, faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $ 250,000, prosecutors say.