Foreclosures Become Kidnapping Centers

In Phoenix, human traffickers are using foreclosed homes to hold illegal immigrants hostage.
June 10, 2009, 2pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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Phoenix, Arizona has become the kidnapping center of America. Because of tightened security at the border, organized crime has taken over the trafficking of people. The gangs are taking empty, foreclosed homes and covering windows, installing security cameras, and extra deadbolts to hold smuggled people inside until they get ransom money from friends and relatives of the illegal immigrants.

"Authorities blame forces ranging from Mexico's rising drug violence to a gang takeover of the immigrant-smuggling business.

Another factor: the volatile housing market in the city, which has left it strewn with thousands of rental houses on sometimes sparsely populated suburban blocks, handy places for smugglers to store either drugs or people. The police call these "drop houses." They say federal, state and local authorities discovered 194 such houses in 2007, then 169 last year and dozens more so far in 2009."

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Published on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 in The Wall St. Journal
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