(CNN)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.
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.
"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.