SAVANNAH, Ga. -- A man was crushed to death while allegedly attempting to steal a catalytic converter from a vehicle at a Savannah, Georgia, car lot, police said.
Officers were called on March 7 after the man, Matthew Eric Smith, 32, was found dead under a car, the Chatham County Police Department said in a release.
"Evidence at the scene indicates that the man was killed while he was illegally removing a catalytic converter from the vehicle, and the vehicle fell on top of him," the release read.
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Catalytic converter theft has skyrocketed around the nation in recent years, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, surging more than 1,200% since 2019.
The converters, which reduce pollution and toxic gas from a vehicle's emissions, are relatively easy to steal and contain valuable precious metals such as palladium, platinum and rhodium.
Last year, federal, state and local law enforcement carried out a "coordinated takedown" of a multimillion-dollar network of catalytic converter thieves, dealers and processors that led to 21 arrests in five states, the Justice Department said in a November release.
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"Some of these precious metals are more valuable per ounce than gold and their value has been increasing in recent years," the department said. "The black-market price for catalytic converters can be above $1,000 each, depending on the type of vehicle and what state it is from. They can be stolen in less than a minute."
Last year, according to police, 39 catalytic converters were stolen from vehicles in unincorporated Chatham County.
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