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Crime Trackers: Mobile Response Team saves lives and protects the border

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THREE POINTS - Border Patrol agents are some of the federal personnel who help protect our nation's border.

Now there's a new unit that strengthens their reach from Puerto Rico to the Southern Arizona desert.

For the first time anywhere in the country News 4 Tucson went behind the scenes for an exclusive look at this highly trained unit.

It’s called the Mobile Response Team. It was created in 2010, and the Tucson sector was the first to train and go operational in 2011. It’s also the largest unit in the country.

What makes the unit unique according to the supervisory agent Jonathan Walz is that they can be rapidly be deployed anywhere in the Tucson sector and throughout the United States.

The MRT unit is made up of agents who volunteer to undergo two weeks of rigorous training including tactical combat casualty care.

They are trained in search and rescue and also deploy to natural disasters under FEMA.

Some of the team went to Houston during Hurricane Harvey. They had a two-day notice and were deployed for two and a half weeks.

Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico followed. Agents had one day's notice and were gone for 26 days.

“We were tasked with assisting the Puerto Rican state police with their law enforcement operations," Waltz said. Later we transitioned into providing security for medical personnel and medical facilities.”

On this day the MRT team headed out past Three Points. That’s where the mobile surveillance capability unit spotted activity.

“The unit was able to spot a group of several people crossing through the desert and mountain region," said Agent Dan Hernandez. "This unit was able to pick it up and give the agents locations to where to look as to where to apprehend the group.”

Their truck is equipped with state of the art technology such as high-resolution cameras - daytime, night time, and infrared - as well as ground-sweeping radar that allows agents to see what's out there in the desert.

In that situation is where the off-terrain vehicles prove to be the best method for agents to access remote areas too treacherous on foot or for a horse.  That's how this group was caught.

Agent Ed Vandenberg, who was responsible for the apprehension, said, “We were able to actually cut their sign, we were able to follow their footprints and then we just tracked them for about two hours maybe.”

The individuals said they crossed into the United States eight days ago. 

“They were in good health, they were all coherent and responsive," Vandenberg said. "We do have EMTs and paramedics out patrolling with us today and the Borstar trauma search and rescue unit are actually out patrolling with us.”

The undocumented immigrants were taken to Border Patrol headquarters and processed. The MRT unit packed it up, and awaits their next call. 

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