Capping a yearlong investigation into drug and weapons dealing in Essex County, federal authorities arrested 22 members of the Crips street gang Wednesday morning, and said many of them were high-level members.

Two others also were charged, but had not been captured as of Wednesday afternoon.

"These are upper-echelon guys, not just street dealers," said Steven Siegel, a spokesman for the FBI's Newark office.

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The suspects were arrested in Newark, Irvington and East Orange, and face charges including possession with intent to distribute heroin, crack cocaine and ecstasy. Several also were charged with illegal sales of weapons, including assault rifles.

"The gun-running, drug dealing and general mayhem that has been gripping parts of Essex County is inspired by and perpetrated by gang members," said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie. "It's got to stop, and all those gang thugs out there who want to run wild in our streets should give serious thought to what it means to do hard time in a federal prison in another state far from New Jersey."

The 24 gang members are part of loosely affiliated Crips factions in East Orange, Newark, and the Crescent Lane Housing Projects in Irvington, which includes sets known as "Grape Street," "Rolling 60s" and "Hoover 5-2."

Siegel said the arrests were unrelated to raids carried out in Britain, and follow up investigative work in New Jersey on Wednesday morning that broke up an arms trafficking operation supplying guns to criminals in London.

More than 100 federal and local agents, including an FBI SWAT team, participated in the early morning street gang arrests.

They seized approximately half a kilo of crack cocaine, 500 ecstasy pills, small amounts of heroin, $8,500 in cash and 16 guns.