A section of south Minneapolis just south of Lake Street has experienced at least 17 robberies in the first three weeks of August, with most of the crimes committed by armed perpetrators who remain on the loose, authorities said.

The rash of crimes has largely occurred from east of Interstate 35W to Hiawatha Avenue and from East Lake Street south to 38th Street, according to police, with most occurring north of 34th Street.

In all but one holdup, the robbers have struck in groups of two, three or four, police added. The perpetrators have either brandished a knife or a gun, or said they were armed.

In the most recent case, according to police, a gunman and an accomplice confronted a woman parked in front of her house on the 3200 block of 15th Avenue S. about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The woman, Blanca Beatriz Avila Rivas, had her 19-month-old daughter in the back seat and was preparing to drive to a relative’s house when two men in their early 20s suddenly came up and started pounding on a door, one of them holding a gun.

One of the men broke through the passenger side window, and Avila Rivas immediately reached for her daughter, screaming “my baby, my baby,” she said. Clutching her daughter, she was shoved out of the 2007 Nissan Murano before the men drove off in her SUV.

“I’m scared,” she said Thursday. “Last night I couldn’t sleep. I think they will come back.”

She has lived in her house for more than two years and has never had any problems with crime. Since her car was robbed, Avila Rivas and her husband haven’t been able to go to work, she said.

Walkers, bikers targeted

In another recent case, Celina Patricio was walking home with her two daughters at 11:27 a.m. on Aug. 15, a Friday, when a man suddenly appeared with a gun. Patricio said she was on a path that she and her daughters frequently walk, and her girls ran ahead to get to their house in the 3100 block of Cedar Avenue S.

As Patricio walked alone, a young man wearing a black sweatshirt with a hood over his head grabbed Patricio’s waist and neck and said, “Give me the money,” holding a gun to her face.

She threw her bag at him, but then he pushed her to the ground and kicked her twice in the ribs, knocking the wind out of her.

“I didn’t even know where he came from,” she said. “I was left in shock.”

Patricio was taken by ambulance to Hennepin County Medical Center to treat the pain in her ribs, but she had no major injuries. The man stole $80 from her.

Descriptions vary

In three of the robberies, food delivery vehicles or taxis have been targeted, police added. In another robbery, the victims were ages 16 and 12. And in yet another, a man was walking his disabled bike home on Aug. 15 at 10 p.m. when he passed under Hiawatha Avenue at Lake Street. Two would-be robbers jumped him, punching him in the face.

Brian Peterson, 21, said he held onto his bike and put it between himself and the two men; he didn’t give them anything and instead walked into East Lake Street, hoping to make a scene and catch the attention of a passing driver. The men backed off, he said.

Police say descriptions of the suspects have varied by ethnicity, gender and age. Records show that police have arrested at least four people for robbery since Aug. 13 in the general area described by the crime alert. Those suspects — three men and one woman — ranged in age from 18 to 51.