Authorities capped a 16-month, multi-agency investigation into gang and drug activity in the High Desert by making 70 arrests Friday from Hesperia to Barstow.

The investigation was conducted by a joint task force comprised of members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s Regional Gang Enforcement Team, the Victorville, Apple Valley and Hesperia stations Gang Enforcement Teams, County Probation and the FBI. It targeted two criminal street gangs in the region.

“When violent crime and narcotics trafficking are reduced, communities throughout the county are safer for residents,” Sheriff John McMahon said. “I am very proud of the work done by all agencies involved in this investigation.”

Thee Rascals gang and East Side Victoria gang were targeted in the sting after investigators determined they were responsible for major distribution of illegal drugs and several violent crimes in the High Desert, authorities said.

“These gangs actively recruit prospective members from our communities, usually children from our neighborhoods and schools,” Sheriff’s officials said in a statement Friday. “Members and associates of these two gangs actively sell narcotics and weapons to further their criminal organization and to instill fear in the community.”

As a result of the investigation, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office issued arrest warrants for over 50 documented gang members and associates from the two gangs on Thursday, with criminal charges related to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, prescription drugs and various weapon violations.

Additional arrest warrants were served by the task force on Friday, and approximately 70 arrests were made in Adelanto, Apple Valley, Barstow, Hesperia and Victorville, authorities said. Investigators also served 19 search warrants, and seized approximately 12 pounds of methamphetamine as well as 18 guns.

“These 70 arrests are a major blow to criminal gangs and underscore San Bernardino County’s commitment to aggressively combating crime, even as the state of California retreats from its responsibilities,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Lovingood said.

Authorities said the Sheriff’s Department will continue to work closely with the District Attorney’s Office in the prosecution of dangerous offenders who participate in criminal street gangs.

“Thanks to the diligence and collaborative efforts of the Sheriff’s Department and all involved agencies, these alleged gang members involved in the distribution of drugs in our High Desert region will now face justice for their actions,” District Attorney Mike Ramos said.

“We started this war on gangs in 2005 and we will continue to hold these criminals responsible for their actions, despite the ‘soft on crime’ approach that has eroded public safety in recent years.”