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      Deputies searching for copper thieves

      22-year-old Matthew Shirley / RCSD

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Richland County deputies say they've identified a group of copper thieves after catching them in the act earlier this week.

      Officials say two deputies noticed a truck loaded with copper parked in front of a house that was under construction on Hawkins Creek Road in Blythewood in early Monday morning.

      When they went inside the house to investigate, they say 22-year-old Matthew Shirley and another suspect slid down the side of the house from the second story. The deputies say they were in the process of stealing copper and caused around $3,000 in damage to the air conditioning unit.

      Deputies are still searching for Shirley and the other suspect who are wanted for breaking and entering.

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      They left behind their truck in the escape, according to officials. Sheriff Leon Lott says investigators are working to link Shirley and the other suspect to other recent thefts.

      If you have information on this, or any, copper theft call CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.

      Copper thefts are on the rise thanks to increased metal prices. Lott says there are several ways you can keep your pipes safe including using fences or cages, engraving and tracking software.