The recent arrests of 70 gang members throughout the High Desert capped a 16-month investigation by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, County Probation Department and the FBI.
According to authorities, the investigation targeted members of Thee Rascals and East Side Victoria gangs responsible for distributing drugs and carrying out several violent crimes in the High Desert.
Arrests were made in every corner of the High Desert — Apple Valley, Adelanto, Barstow, Hesperia and Victorville.
We applaud all three agencies for their commitment to taking these dangerous criminals off the streets and urge them to continue to keep the heat on these and all other gangs present in our region.
We've seen increasing evidence of this bad element moving into the High Desert in the past few years, bringing their drugs and guns with them.
We're relieved that this influx hasn't gone unnoticed by law enforcement or the District Attorney's Office.
The Sheriff's Department reported what we all should know, that these gangs actively recruit new members from our communities, "usually children from our neighborhoods and schools."
These gangs' goals are to widen their influence and increase their wealth through illicit drug and gun sales. Once they get a foothold in a community, they are difficult to eradicate.
Fortunately, our county law enforcement leaders remain committed to doing just that. Gang enhancements provide the District Attorney's Office with a tool to keep gang members convicted of crimes in prison longer.
"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," San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos said.
Ramos is right. Thanks to legislation like AB109 and Propositions 47 and 57, California has become a soft on crime, releasing prisoners with convictions for even violent offenses after they have served barely half of their sentences. It has become a joke and made our communities less safe.
That's why it is critically important for the Sheriff's Department and others to remain proactive in dealing with violent criminal street gangs.
The recent arrests took 70 criminals off the streets, but you can bet there are many more out there still dealing drugs, selling guns and committing violent crimes in the High Desert.
We must continue to keep the pressure on them until they decide it is better to move on to other areas than to risk arrest and imprisonment here in the High Desert.