LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Police are seeing a troubling rise in the number of drug-related home invasions committed in Lawrence, especially against young people who are considered easy targets.
At least five home invasions have been reported in Lawrence since December, but police think the true number is much higher but that many victims don't want to report them to police. And the break-ins involve guns more often than they did in the past, The Lawrence Journal-World (http://bit.ly/17LdcwQ ) reported.
"It is a regular occurrence," said police spokesman Sgt. Trent McKinley. "It didn't used to happen with that much frequency, and you're seeing, more and more, firearms being used. That's disturbing."
Often the victims are drug dealers -- college-age youths selling marijuana from their homes -- police said. Some victims have been beaten, others have been shot and killed.
In some cases, the criminals have forced their way into a home after their intended target has moved away, leaving them to terrorize the current residents who don't have drugs or cash to give up.
So far this year, nobody has been shot in any of the home invasions. In December, one of three men accused of invading a home was accidentally shot while he and an accomplice tried to kick in a door. Connor McKenzie Mayhan, 21, of Olathe, testified in court that the target of the robbery was $30,000 in drug money.
While such robberies have been happening for a long time within the illicit drug trade, law enforcement officers said it appears to be a problem in Lawrence more than in other cities. For instance, in Overland Park police counted only one or two drug-related home robberies in a year.
Police and prosecutors have complained of an increase in drug-fueled home invasions before. In 2011, they identified six drug-related home robberies over the previous two years, while in 2008, they counted four, including one that resulted in a double homicide.
In that case, two teenagers went to the home of Roland Klundt, a 20-year-old Baker University student, to rob him of drugs and money. Klundt was armed, though, and shot and killed one of the teens. The other teenager, Kellam Jones, who was 16 at the time, killed Klundt with a rifle.
Jones was convicted of murder and is serving a 14-year prison sentence in El Dorado. He will be eligible for parole in June 2020.
"We certainly want to impress upon young people how dangerous this can be," said Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson.
While some may view marijuana as less harmful than other illegal drugs, he said, being involved in large quantities of drugs and cash has gotten people killed.
"They're putting their lives at risk, their friends' lives at risk, and, of course, their property" at risk, he said.