MORE than 20 people have been arrested by police across Glasgow targeting thieves "fishing" for keys to steal cars to order.

A dedicated hit squad was set up earlier in the year after a rise in the number of cars being stolen from the east of Glasgow and East Dunbartonshire.

High-value cars were being targeted in East Dunbartonshire and thieves were sneaking into unlocked homes in the east of the city to steal vehicles to joyride.

Police said they were using wire with magnets to 'fish' keys from secure homes.

Officers today revealed at least 21 people had been arrested during the past few months in connection with more than 50 crimes.

Chief Inspector Stephen Hazlett, area commander for Glasgow East, said they had seen fewer thefts of cars since launching the operation.

He said: "We have noticed a marked decrease in incidents.

"As soon as we started Operation Orion the first arrests were made within two days."

He said officers had always believed a core of between 15 to 20 people were involved, and said many arrested for crimes were being subsequently charged with other offences once forensic results came back.

He added: "There's a lot of 'slow' work going on now - we are still getting forensic results which could lead to other charges.

"There are people who have already been arrested and we are putting additional crimes to them."

He said many people were currently behind bars, either having been sentenced or on remand while awaiting trial.

Chief Insp Hazlett said: "Some form of custodial sentence has been put upon them.

"Some are still going through the court process."

The "vast majority" were from the Glasgow area, he said, but some came from other parts of Scotland.

He said: "They have been arrested in connection with crimes all over the country.

"There will also be people who have travelled in from other areas."

The operation was launched after 154 vehicles, worth £1.3 million, were stolen in the Greater Glasgow area between March 18 and August 10.

Police estimated criminals were stealing high-value cars to order, getting around £1,000 a time, and using others for joy rides.

They said the problem was particularly evident in East Dunbartonshire, where the high value thefts were taking place. In the east end of Glasgow, the issue was more with cars being taken for joy riding.

Each area had five officers dedicated to tackling the problem.

Shettleston councillor Martin Neill said he had spoken to residents in Mount Vernon and Sandyhills who had been directly affected. "He said: "I have spoken directly with people who have had break-ins and cars stolen and know the misery this can cause people and their families.

"I am asking people to keep an eye out for neighbours, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, and to make sure all doors and windows are locked at