Federal law says repossessors can't "breach the peace" while repossessing cars, but it doesn't provide more detail than that. We doubt it includes killing an Alabama man over his Chrysler Sebring.

Nothing highlights the story of increased repossessions than the story of 67-year-old railroad retiree Jimmy Tanks heard a commotion outside his mobile home bedroom window in his mobile home in Halsell, Alabama at 2:30 AM. Tanks grabbed a gun, walked out the back door and confronted who he thought was a thief trying to steal his Chrysler Sebring. In reality it was a repo man and two helpers trying to tow off the Chrysler Sebring. After shots were fired, Tanks wound up dead. It may be the only known case of a man killed over a Chrysler Sebring.

The man, there to repossess the car, Kenneth Alvin Smith, is now awaiting trial on a murder charge. Although Alabama's a state considered a Wild West territory even by the standards of an industry that's largely unregulated nationally, the AP claims it's representative of a rise in dangerous confrontations correlating with a rise in the number of repossessions nationally:

"With the U.S. dealing with an economic slide that has cost millions of jobs, the number of vehicle repossessions is expected to rise 5 percent this year. That's after it jumped 12 percent to 1.67 million nationally in 2008, said Tom Webb, chief economist with Manheim Consulting, an automotive marketing firm. That followed a 9 percent increase in 2007, creating more opportunities for bad outcomes in an industry where armed confrontations and threats happen every day."

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Mostly the increase in violence appears to be coming from dropping untrained thugs into the repo-man ranks, something more states could regulate if they wanted to. Our thought is initially not to get in the middle of a question of deadbeats getting in the way of two-bit thugs trying to take back what's rightfully the property of a bank taking our taxpayer dollars — there's just too many hoops to jump through. But we will say repo men should be trying to take cars during the daytime whenever possible. Because if you're trying to take a car, even legally in a repossession, in the middle of the night, bad things'll happen. Like a guy getting killed over a freakin' Chrysler Sebring. [Detroit News]

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images News