Drop houses are often an intermediary point in the smuggling of immigrants who are not legally permitted to enter the United States. The drop houses are usually rented properties where coyotes, or human smugglers, stash immigrants while awaiting payments. These properties can range from actual houses or apartments and are not limited to any one geographic area of the state.
Common Characteristics of a Drop House
- Security bars on windows or windows fortified in some manner
- Shed or other dwellings in rear of house with excessive activity
- Blankets or sheets, over or under the blinds
- Excessive trash in the back or front yards
- Large quantities of discarded empty ramen noodles, egg or other bulk food packaging
- No activity until late at night with numerous people coming and going from the house
- Vehicles that are stripped down that enter and exit from a back yard or through RV gates
- Suspicious persons that appear to stand guard or be on breaks outside
Inside a Drop House
Often, the immigrants are being held against their will and have been misled by the coyotes. Treatment of immigrants is generally very poor which may include food, water and medicine being withheld to the point of death. In addition, any children and infants are generally lacking the basics such as baby formula or appropriate food.
It's Your Community
The violent nature of the criminal operations that utilize drop houses, and their total disregard for human life, make them a threat not only to the immigrants they exploit, but also to the communities in which they operate. As a result, if human smugglers are operating in your neighborhood, you and your family could be at risk.
Real Estate Professionals
Watch for unusual requests such as month-to-month leases, lack of interest in the amenities or no request for walk through of a property prior to renting. Be alert of properties being leased by one person, but rent paid by others in cash or behaviors such as not turning on utilities. It’s important that as a professional, you are not providing a service to human smugglers – be alert.
What Can Be Done
It’s important for the public and those that work in real estate or related fields to be on the lookout for unusual activities that may signify the existence of a drop house. If you suspect a house is being used for human smuggling or other criminal purposes, please contact your local police department immediately. Human smuggling is undoubtedly a significant problem with potentially grave consequences, but law enforcement, with help from informed, alert community members, are already making a major difference.