About 400 police officers have taken part in raids across the county as part of an investigation into thefts of cars worth a total of up to £4m.

More than 20 properties were raided in Essex and in London at about 5:45am today (Thursday, February 27).

Stapleford Tawney, Waltham Abbey, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Braintree, Southend and Uttlesford were among those raided.

It is believed 12 arrests have been made so far, 12 stolen vehicles have been found and £90,000 has been seized.

The joint operation was carried out by Essex Police and the Met Police, along with British Transport Police which have currently seized BMWs, Jaguars and Mercedes models.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Waltham Abbey, Stapleford Abbotts, Brentwood and Chelmsford have been investigates by Essex Police and Met Police

It follows an investigation into a gang suspected of stealing about 90 cars - worth a total of £3m to £4m - over the past 16 months.

Thieves are thought to have used tow trucks to steal the cars in just a few minutes and to have targeted cars in railway station car parks.

Once stolen the identities of the vehicles are changed, with their number plates switched out and code numbers replaced.

Cars are then sold on to people who may not know they’re purchasing a stolen vehicle - and other times the vehicles are dismantled into parts or shipped abroad.

All of the cars seized in the raid will now be checked to see if they were stolen or legitimately owned.