It appeared to simply be a case of gunmen targeting college students.
According to the Inquirer, back in April 2010, former Drexel student Kevin Ulrich, 23, was with his roommate in their apartment on the 4000 block of Ludlow Street in University City. Suddenly, police say two gunmen broke into the apartment, pistol-whipped Ulrich and handcuffed his roommate. Police say the intruder’s gun then went off, firing into a wall. The gunmen fled the apartment and neighbors called police.
When police arrived, they claim they discovered the victim of the crime was guilty of a bit of criminal activity himself. Investigators found $27,000 in cash, along with 2,700 grams of marijuana with a street value of $55,000 stashed in a Drexel lacrosse duffel bag, according to the Inquirer. Ulrich was charged with possession with intent to deliver. Last December he was convicted and given probation. It turns out Ulrich was a student moonlighting as a pot dealer and his attackers were neighborhood dealers, according to police.
The Inquirer reports that there have been at least seven drug related home invasions of students near the Temple campus since last November and four such incidents at student homes near Drexel since April of 2010.
Police told the Inquirer that the student drug dealers are targeted because they draw attention away from neighborhood dealers by selling marijuana. The dealers break into the homes of the students, pistol-whip them, tie them up, and rob them to send a message: don’t cut into our trade.
Police told the Inquirer that the student dealers often seek out other dealers who operate a few blocks away from their homes in order to acquire a supply. Buying only a few hundred dollars’ worth of marijuana is enough to catch the attention of local drug dealers, who often follow the students home while they remain unaware.
Police say the students are especially vulnerable because they’re more often than not unarmed and give little resistance. They also often possess a large amount of money, laptops and other valuables. To make matters worse, police also say the student dealers often get rid of drug evidence before contacting authorities, making it difficult for investigators to catch the home invaders.
Aside from the incident involving Ulrich, police say student arrests are rare. By the time authorities arrive, most of the drug evidence has either been stolen or destroyed. Police also say it’s difficult to bring charges or prosecute the students.
The Inquirer reports that both Drexel and Temple are aware of the drug related home invasions. Drexel released a statement saying they have a zero-tolerance policy for criminal activity and that students are placed on indefinite suspension pending the outcome of the investigation.
The Inquirer reports that student drug dealers make up a small portion of the Drexel and Temple population. In spite of this, the reported incidents were enough to cause concern for police, who fear the violence could escalate if the incidents continue and students begin to try and defend themselves.
One incident suggesting that this could happen occurred on the morning of September 2. Police say a gunman approached a home on the 3500 block of Spring Garden Street, rang the doorbell and asked for marijuana. When the student let him in, police say the man took out a gun and forced the student into another room where he found five other roommates. Police say one of the students knocked the gun out of the intruder’s hands and the intruder fled the scene. Police consider the students in that incident lucky.
Time will tell if the violent home invasions will sway aspiring student pot dealers towards a safer and legal alternative to making money: an on-campus job.