Authorities have arrested 37 members of two gangs in connection with a "rampage of violence" that includes more than three dozen killings and 200 shootings that terrorized people from Salinas to San Jose, Attorney General Jerry Brown said Thursday.
Thursday's mass arrests culminated an eight-month operation, code-named "Operation Knockout," aimed at apprehending members of the nortenos and surenos gangs.
The focus of the raids was Salinas, but dozens of state and federal agents also raided locations in San Jose.
In addition to the arrests, agents seized 40 pounds of cocaine, 14 pounds of marijuana, nine ounces of methamphetamine, $34,000 in cash and 12 guns. An additional 57 arrests were made before Thursday's sweep, according to Brown, a Democratic candidate for govenor.
"Operation Knockout was designed to restore safety to the streets of Salinas," Brown said in a prepared statement. "Citizens in John Steinbeck's hometown deserve better than having to endure a violent crime rate that's three times the national average. We owed it to the people of Salinas to arrest these out-of-control gang members and ensure a heightened sense of personal security throughout the city."
Brown said the arrests dealt a major blow to the gangs, which he said are major distributors of powder cocaine, rock cocaine and crystal methamphetamine throughout the county and are linked to dozens of homicides and shootings.
Brown also announced Thursday that he has formed a task force to maintain the crackdown against drugs and major crimes.
In 2008 and 2009, there were 55 homicides in the city of Salinas. Based on the city's population of 148,000, its violent crime rate was more than three times the national average. Only two of the 55 homicides were unrelated to gang violence. During this same reporting period, there were more than 200 reported shootings related to gang violence.
San Jose has seven homicides so far in 2010. The latest was Wednesday and according to police, it was gang related.
KSBW.com contributed to this report.