"I am going to read the lineup that is going in the van," said an undercover agent with the MSCU as he prepared his agents to raid the home of a drug-dealer. The agents suited up with face masks, bullet proof vests and guns as they passed around a picture of the suspect.
"He's a bigger guy, but we still need to be prepared if he hits the ground," said the agent as he described the drug-dealer they planned to take down.
A group of special agents in Pennsylvania call themselves street fighters, and they've taken their show on the road. The Mobile Street Crimes Unit is an arm of the Attorney General's Office that deploys to where they see the biggest threat and where police resources are limited.
For their second deployment the MSCU hit the streets of Harrisburg, and FOX43 got a front-row seat as the unit went undercover.
"These are in the areas hit hard by drugs and the violence that ensues that have police resources that have been dwindled because of the economic times," said Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) Pennsylvania.
"Drugs are the downfall of this world right now. They are crippling every town in the USA," said another undercover agent as he drove a van full of agents to the drug-dealers home ahead of the raid.
Hours later the team switched gears and hit a known drug trafficking area in Harrisburg. They were targeting people coming into Harrisburg to buy heroin. Within minutes the agents witness a man doing just that.
"We spot a Mercury Milan," a man's voice came across police scanners.
The team springs into action and pulls over the car. Inside they find a father and his son. The father admits to having his son drive him into the city from Mechanicsburg to score his fix. They search his car and find heroin, a spoon and syringe.
"You bring your son in here for this? You're going to end up getting him shot, stabbed and killed, or something like that. How would you be able to live with yourself? You wouldn't. Then why would you bring him out here?" an agent questioned the man, who was arrested and load him in a Harrisburg Police van.
FOX43 was the only TV camera to ride along with Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Duecker as his team of agents hit the streets of Harrisburg to take down drugs and the street crime that is associated. "We'll get with their vice unit, we'll get with their narcotics unit, we'll get with the patrol and we'll try to integrate to the greatest extent possible," said Duecker.
Duecker took us along as agents spread out through Harrisburg to track a drug deal.
"The CI [Confidential Informant] will be picking up the target, he will be on the front porch waiting for him. They will leaving that location and traveling down Cameron Street and then Second Street," and agent said over the police scanner. "Did he go in which direction, north or south? He's going southeast on Front Street."
In this case, agents don't arrest anyone. Instead, they carefully track the drug deal, the players, and the location where the drugs came from for future intelligence.
"We're trying to get names, we're trying to get associations with other traffickers, any known known or suspected connections with the traffickers that bring it into Pennsylvania," said Duecker.
Looking at intelligence gathered Duecker and Kane both believe that most, if not all of the drugs coming into Pennsylvania have ties to Mexican Drug Cartels.
"As we start to get into the demographics and start to ask these people strategic intelligence-related questions we can really start to scratch into where this guy came from, how he got into the trade, who he knows, how he came to know that person, and in the very rare cases, he may have a link to a link, to a link, to the drug cartels in Mexico," said Duecker.
In fact, Duecker and Kane recently traveled to the border share and swap information about the cartels.
"The drug cartels have a great business model and they saw a market here in Pennsylvania. It's easy to get to, we have a great highway system here, and the demand is here," said Kane.
Once the Mobile Street Crimes Unit finishes in Harrisburg the unit will deploy to another undisclosed location to continue their fight.
"We can't give up the war because we feel like maybe we are never going to win it. The war will never be over, but we can have the upper hand and we can win battle after battle. Every arrest that we make and every drug organization that we take off the street is a win in that battle," said Kane.
More about the Mobile Street Crimes Unit- First Deployment
In February 2014, the Office of Attorney General’s Mobile Street Crimes Unit deployed to Hazleton and removed 35,000 packets of heroin from the streets. The operation also resulted in 100 arrests of violent criminals, and the removal of guns and other illegal drugs from Hazleton neighborhoods. Harrisburg is the second deployment for the MSCU.
The MSCU, also known as X-IMPACT, is a clandestine unit that works as an accelerator for local law enforcement by leveraging resources and expertise to make a swift impact on drug trafficking and other street crime.
“The Mobile Street Crimes Unit is the ultimate regional crime-fighting tool; pooling federal, state and local resources into one focused force-multiplier that ripples across municipal and county boundaries,” said State Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), who was a part of a bipartisan group in the legislature that championed the initial investment in the MSCU in 2013. The $3 million annual appropriation enabled Attorney General Kane to create the Bureau of Narcotics Investigations’ Region X, which encompasses the MSCU.
“Thanks to the General Assembly for seeing the investment in our future; the investment in our people; and the investment in their towns and their regions in giving us that money,” Attorney General Kane said in February 2014 in Hazleton.
Hazleton and Harrisburg faced declining funding and expanded responsibility for law enforcement. While the epidemic of drug abuse and crime fit no economic, educational or social profile, Hazleton’s sharp decline in economic opportunity has led to an increase in the drug trade and other crimes. Heroin use, along with the criminal organizations that perpetuate it, had become a dire problem in Hazleton and Harrisburg over the last few years.