The thrill of entering a home while residents slept or just plain cowardice are likely motives in a recent string of Lawrence aggravated burglaries, a psychologist said.
Lawrence police last week arrested 31-year-old Ronald Kenneth Brooks Jr., and he was charged with entering two northern Lawrence homes while residents were sleeping between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. July 31.
Officers caught him near the two homes.
But for weeks, dozens of Lawrence residents had reported similar crimes to police. They said they had awakened in their homes and discovered a burglar inside. Or they’d awakened and discovered that items were missing.
Often, police said, the burglar would enter the homes through an unlocked door or an open garage.
The crimes were different from a common night auto or garage burglary or breaking into an empty residence.
Brian Russell, a Lawrence psychologist and attorney, said the suspect or suspects may not so much have been after valuable items but may have wanted to experience entering someone else’s home with people inside.
“There are certain people who do crime primarily for the thrill, at least the act itself,” he said.
The suspect also might have only needed a small amount of money to support a drug habit and worked to try to steal a small amount at a time.
“It’s important to keep in mind: Criminals are almost always cowards,” Russell said. “You can have somebody who went in there to steal something. Then they get in there and somebody detects their presence, and they immediately turn tail and run because they want to be able to do this again tomorrow.”
There was one report of a suspect breaking out the rear glass door of an east Lawrence residence and stealing a TV inside.
But typically in the recent burglaries only smaller items that could fit into a backpack or bag were stolen, if anything at all. About $1,900 worth of electronics were stolen in one July burglary, and other times a suspect ran before taking anything, often when residents awoke inside.
Russell said one danger is that some criminals start with more petty acts like shoplifting before working their ways to more dangerous crimes. No assaults were reported in the recent string of aggravated burglaries.
“It could be that our police did a nice job of catching somebody who was on the upswing of an escalating thing,” Russell said. “You get away with something enough times, you start to get bold.”
Brooks had a 2004 drug conviction and spent time in federal prison for assaulting a mail carrier in Topeka in 2008.
Another man, William D. Washington III, 32, of Lawrence, was arrested June 9 after a similar home burglary was reported in west Lawrence, but he has not been charged with any other burglaries. The aggravated burglaries also did not stop after Washington was arrested, so police said there could be more than one suspect involved.
None has been reported since Brooks’ arrest.
Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence police spokesman, said detectives were still following leads in the case and trying to determine if either Washington or Brooks could be tied to any of the other burglaries.