A bad year for robbery in north Minneapolis got worse this month with a sudden spike in cases, the police reported Wednesday. Some 22 robberies have been reported in north Minneapolis since Sept. 1. Most of the robberies have occurred at night and many included the use of a weapon or the threat of a weapon, according to city Crime Prevention Specialist Tim Hammett. Victims were assaulted in a few cases, he added.

That part of the city, known to the police as the Fourth Precinct, was already witnessing a runup in robbery cases this year with 383 reported through Sept. 9. That's a 24 percent jump over last year and a 48 percent increase from two years ago. 

Here's what the crime alert says: "In most cases the suspects have been teenage black males traveling on foot. In a few instances the victims were physically assaulted. Cell phones are usually targeted and then money or other valuables are secondary." 

Most of the robberies have been reported in an area bounded by Olson Memorial Highway and Dowling Avenue North.

The Minneapolis police cautioned the public to use good personal safety habits, including:

* Stay alert when outdoors. Be aware of who may be approaching you. Keep iPod or earphone volumes to a minimum in order to hear people approaching.

*  Trust your feelings and act on them. If you feel uncomfortable about a person or group of people approaching you, keep your distance or leave the area.

* Be wary of individuals who approach asking for directions, the time, or a match. This is a common ploy used by assailants to distract their victims while they get close enough to attack.

* Keep your distance from potential attackers by walking or running away, or move so that there's an obstacle between you and the potential attacker, such as a car or bus shelter.

* Use strong body language by walking with confidence. Keep your head up and don't look distracted. Attackers look for people who don't appear to be paying attention to their surroundings.

* If out at night, use a buddy system, travel in well-used areas, and walk or jog in well-lit areas. 

* If you think someone is following you, switch directions and walk to a lighted home, business or towards other people.

* Draw attention to yourself or a potential attacker by using loud verbal commands, a screech alarm or both.

* Call 911 immediately to report cries for help.