A shocking slaying and a rash of home invasions has raised fears among some Augusta-area residents, but law enforcement officials say there's no cause for alarm.
In June, seven home invasions were reported in Augusta; several more were reported outside the city.
However, Richmond County Sheriff's Lt. Calvin Chew said the rate of such crimes is not increasing.
Numbers usually level out, according to Chew, and while some months have more home invasions than others, overall there isn't an upward trend. June's incidents were clustered together, but there is no reason to believe the cases are related.
In Burke County, Ralph and Trudie Gordon, both 82, were found dead in their home on Father's Day. GBI investigators estimate the deaths were the result of a home invasion two days before.
Tony O. Grubbs was arrested as a suspect in the deaths on June 22.
In Columbia County, Capt. Steve Morris could recall only two invasions this year.
Morris recalled one invasion in March but doesn't believe it was a "random act." Investigators believe it was possibly drug-related.
Columbia County's most recent incident on June 29 left one man shot in the arm, but no items were stolen from his Ridge Crossing apartment. Both the victim and the three suspects were taken into custody. Charges against the victim included possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, according to incident reports.
The bulk of Augusta's invasions, according to Chew, are drug-related.
"Sometime we know right off the bat," he said. "We can smell marijuana and we can see remnants of the drug in the house."
The difficulty is getting victims to admit drugs were a motive.
Chew said he rarely handles a case where a family experiences a random home invasion.
When it does happen, it's often a burglary attempt gone awry -- criminals burst in without knowing people are home.
The term "home invasion" doesn't even exist in the crime code, Morris said. It likely originated as common usage by police officers and media, similar to "carjacking."
Technically, carjacking should be referred to as highjacking, just as a home invasion should be referred to as burglary and additional charges, Morris said.
But frequently, any burglary involving violent crime can be labeled a home invasion and definitions can vary from station to station.
"Basically if they break into a home by force and commit a felony inside then it's a home invasion," Chew said.
Subjects usually enter the home after dark by kicking in a door and often a weapon is involved.
About 30 percent of victims are injured during a home invasion, Chew said, and rarely is anyone killed.
But it does happen. He recalled two deaths during home invasions in the past several years, one recently.
Lawanda Persons was shot to death May 15 after an invasion at 11th and D'Antignac streets. Police said there are currently no suspects in the Persons case.
The other death occurred in 2008 on Royal Street.
For concerned homeowners, law enforcement advised installing a peephole or alarm system and using caution about opening doors to strangers.
"A lot of times we find out after the fact that the victim or neighbor of the victim observed or heard suspicious activity and failed to report it," Morris said.
If you find yourself the victim in a home invasion, Morris advised to avoid leaving your residence with the suspect, such as going to an ATM or bank.
"At the same time, it's probably best to comply with their demands within reason to avoid physical injury or death," Morris said.