Gangs are the worst crime threat facing the Victor Valley and San Bernardino County. These networks of criminals carry out thousands of violent crimes in our county, terrorizing residents and burdening our law and justice system.


Criminal gang activity poses an ever increasing threat to our County's citizens. About 15,000 gang members and more than 700 gangs have been documented in our County. At least 1,000 of those gang members and close to 100 of those gangs are here in the Victor Valley. We know there are many more gang members out there - these are just the ones that have been documented. And these gangs continue to grow with new recruits and transplants from bigger cities.


Gangs are a major problem in communities across the nation, where they have traditionally been found in larger cities. But today, gangs have infiltrated our rural areas as well. Our response to gangs can set the stage for how quickly gangs will grow or how quickly they will become a thing of the past.


We've seen the unfortunate results in other communities, such as the Antelope Valley, that used to be rural but now have a reputation for gang infestation. We cannot allow that to happen in the Victor Valley.


There are things we can do to defeat gangs before they become a problem. We've declared a War on Gangs and we've already taken several steps to attack the problem. We created a gang task force with officers who focus on gang enforcement. We created a unit in the District Attorney's Office to seek civil court injunctions against gangs. We began using GPS technology to track gang members on probation. We created a program to eradicate gang graffiti. And we've funded youth programs in an effort to direct youth toward positive activities and cut off the supply of new recruits for gangs.


But this is a war. When you're fighting a war and the bad guys increase in number - the good guys need to call in more troops. We've seen the success General Petraeus has had with his troop surge in Iraq - as more troops hit the streets, violence has been slashed.


It's time for a troop surge of our own - and it's called Operation Desert Heat. The enforcement action, which begins this weekend, will be an extended operation against Victor Valley gangs that will include a major surge in the number of law enforcement officers on the street.


We're turning up the heat on gang members. Through Operation Desert Heat, $135,000 is being allocated to saturate the Victor Valley with law enforcement officers, adding dozens of Sheriff's Deputies to the streets - and they'll be supplemented by officers from other agencies as well, including the Probation Department, Parole, the Highway Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Gangs use tools such as fear and intimidation to gain strength in communities. Operation Desert Heat is going to result in gang members finding out what it's like to feel fear and intimidation.


To prevail in the War on Gangs, we have to be stronger, smarter and tougher. Operation Desert Heat will send a strong message to gang members - gangs will not be tolerated in our community.


The Victor Valley is our home and we're not going to let gang members take it away from us. Our message to gang members is clear - reform, get out of our County or you will go to jail. We can stop gangs from becoming a major problem in our community, and in the process, we'll make San Bernardino County a safer place to live.


Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt represents San Bernardino County's First District, which includes the Victor Valley. Gary Penrod is the Sheriff of San Bernardino County.