Armed with more than 40 arrest warrants, Salinas police and state and federal agents conducted the raids in an attempt to decapitate the leadership of the notorious Norteno and Surreno gangs, which have been fighting each other for years. Those arrested were brought to the Salinas Rodeo Grounds to be processed.
"There are some serious shotcallers who caused a lot of devastation," state Attorney General Jerry Brown said.
More than 200 agents and police were involved in "Operation Knockout," a wide ranging investigation which began eight months ago.
Salinas has been active gang turf for decades. City officials say they have gone from turf wars to drug trafficking with links to Mexican cartels.
"Salinas is really the gateway city in the northern district of California for the importation of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine," U.S. Attorney Joe Russoniello said.
Last year, there were 29 murders in the city, all of them, police say, were gang related.
This year, there has been one murder. About a month ago, a 6-year-old boy was playing inside his home when he was struck in the head by a stray bullet during a gang shooting at a nearby park. A police source tells ABC7 that tragic murder helped step up the efforts of law enforcement working on Operation Knockout.
Just two weeks ago, a 10-year-old girl was wounded by a stray bullet from a similar gang shooting. She was walking home with her mother when the drive-by shooting happened.
By the end of the day, 37 people had been arrested. Agents confiscated 40 pounds of cocaine, large amounts of marijuana and methamphetamine and a dozen firearms.