An apparent human smuggling operation has been disrupted, after police on Friday found 91 people inside a southwest Houston residence.
Houston Police first responded to a call concerning a possible kidnapping late on Thursday, according to KPRC-TV.
Eventually, after working through the night, police obtained a search warrant.
“When we got into the house we realized there were over 90 people inside. We immediately began to assess any threats and render medical care,” Houston Police Assistant Chief Daryn Edwards said. “It was very surprising.”
HPD Commanders and PIO at 12200 Chessington Drive after dozens of persons found inside a residence. Incident initially reported as a kidnapping and may possibly involve human smuggling. Media briefing expected in about an hour. #HouNews pic.twitter.com/uNyKoYy00n
— Houston Police (@houstonpolice) April 30, 2021
“This is definitely more of a smuggling thing and not a trafficking thing,” Edwards added, according to KHOU-TV.
Police believe that they were contacted with the kidnapping report by someone who is related to one of the people in the house, KXAN-TV reported.
.. @houstonpolice update: 91 or so suspected human smuggling victims found in two areas of two story home. HFD helping with medical needs. Concern there are active #COVID19 cases among folks found. About five women, rest men, no kids. Being given food + water #khou11 pic.twitter.com/AJxUAYBd9t
— Jason Miles (@JMilesKHOU) April 30, 2021
The department additionally revealed their concerns that many of the people rescued likely have COVID-19, noting that some reported fevers and others, a loss of smell — both symptoms of the disease — according to KHOU.
Only five of those in the house were female, police said. Although there were no children in the house, police told reporters the upper age limit of those found was in the late 30s.
People discovered in the house said they had not eaten in some time.
“They were basically in there, in their basic clothing, and all huddled together,” Edwards said, according to the Independent.
Edwards said sorting through the 91 people would take some time.
“We’ve got to separate who the victims are, versus who, as you can imagine, somebody that would be involved in something like this, as soon as they realise we’re here, they’re probably going to try to become a part of them,” he said.
He added that many of the people in the house said they were from Central America.
Human smuggling appears to be a thriving enterprise under the Biden administration! Who wants open borders? 10% for the big guy! https://t.co/X4u1uj6IL3
— IONO (@TimeForChores) April 30, 2021
This week, in response to a rise in human smuggling, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would be launching a new initiative titled “Operation Sentinel,” according to NBC News.
“We will identify the smugglers and their associates and employ a series of targeted actions and sanctions against them. We will have a broad approach and a strong one. It will include every authority in our arsenal, including revocation of travel documents … freezing of banking and other financial assets, and these are just some of the examples,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.