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Robbers target casual drug dealers

The criminals are betting their victims won’t call police.

And that’s creating some dangerous situations, according to Douglas County’s top prosecutor.

Recently, robbers have been targeting casual drug dealers in hopes of stealing drugs and money — all without much fear that the dealers will snitch.

“We have a real problem,” said District Attorney Charles Branson.

Branson said last summer’s double homicide during a botched robbery in east Lawrence is a prime example.

Prosecutors said Kellam Jones, 17, and Gage Hauk, 18, went to a home to rob 20-year-old Baker University student Roland Klundt of drugs and money. Klundt shot and killed Hauk during the June 7 incident, and then Jones shot and killed Klundt.

“Unfortunately, these cases aren’t that uncommon,” Branson said Nov. 13, after Jones pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge.

“We have these home invasion robberies where people come in and say, ‘Hey, this guy’s got some money, this guy’s got some drugs and we can go rob him and he won’t tell anybody because he’s doing something illegal,'” Branson said.

In another recent case, five people were ordered to empty their pockets and forced into a central Lawrence apartment bathroom by a machete-wielding man who invaded their home.

The district attorney said similar situations are happening across Douglas County.

“These are usually folks who are not serious dealers but are dealing to support their own habits and, in some cases, college students looking for some weekend money,” said Branson. “They get robbed by friends or people that hear that they are dealing.”

Laura Green, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas, said similar crimes are occurring across the country. She sees legalization of marijuana as one solution.

“A system of taxing and regulating marijuana … would get it out of private homes, out of neighborhoods and put it behind lock and key where it belongs,” said Green, who said she’s been studying drug policy for more than 15 years. “Our law enforcement agencies have been unable to stop the use of drugs and to stop the selling of drugs, and it really looks like it’s time that we may be starting to think about some other approaches to controlling drugs in our society.”

Lawrence police are addressing the drug crime issue, said Sgt. Bill Cory, police spokesman. The Douglas County Drug Enforcement Unit — comprised of officers from the Lawrence Police Department and Douglas County Sheriff’s Office — plays a big role in investigating drug dealers and users, Cory said.

But the public also can help. There are some tell-tale signs for neighbors to look for and then call police. Probably the most obvious: People frequently coming and going from a house and only staying for a short time. Callers can make anonymous tips to police on the Crimestoppers hotline, 843-TIPS.

“We encourage the public that if they see things or suspect that illegal drug activity is taking place in and around where they live to call the police department,” said Cory.