Forget the theatrics of the apparently now-defunct splash-and -grab bandits - the city and its surrounding suburbs have a new breed of thieves to worry about.

Detectives say they are desperately trying to track down a trio of heavily armed crooks that has committed 13 area robberies in the past two months.


Digital surveillance cameras have captured clear images of two of the suspects, who usually victimize cashiers at 24-hour convenience stores and brandish an array of weapons, including an Uzi, a pump shotgun, two 9 mms and a revolver.

"Our concern is that these males are targeting businesses that are usually open 24 hours, operating with one employee in most cases," said Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives.

"They're waiting for no customers to be in the stores. The weapons they're using are also of concern."

The robbers, acting with a third armed bandit, struck for the first time on Jan. 2, robbing an EB Games store on City Avenue near Church Road of $2,400, Walker said. That same night, they robbed the Family Dollar Discount on Girard Avenue near 47th Street.

The crooks weren't heard from again until Jan. 20, when one of the thieves - armed with a Tec-9 - victimized the same EB Games.

"We think that initially, they did that first one and waited to see if they'd get caught," Walker said. "As time goes on, they gain more confidence and get more comfortable and continue on."

The robbers returned to action on Feb. 8, when two of them, armed with silver handguns, robbed a Yeadon 7-Eleven. Surveillance images of the heist were released last night.

They re-formed as a trio on Feb. 15, robbing a Taco Bell on City Avenue near 47th Street.

The next night, the handgun-wielding crooks returned to rob the Yeadon 7-Eleven, and later jumped through a drive-through window at a West Philly Checkers, on Baltimore Avenue near 58th Street, terrorizing employees before making off with an unknown amount of cash.

They replicated the daring drive-through heist on Feb. 19, at a Checkers on Lancaster Avenue near Girard Avenue.

"Those [robberies] were of particular concern because of the way they enter through the windows with their guns out," Walker said. "There's a potential for the guns to discharge accidentally."

On Feb. 22, one of the thieves robbed a City Avenue 7-Eleven. Two of them robbed a Dunkin' Donuts at 55th and Chestnut streets on Feb. 25.

Walker said they struck twice on Feb. 27, robbing 7-Elevens in Clifton Heights and in Darby. On Thursday, two of the crooks, armed with a pistol-grip shotgun, robbed an Upper Darby 7-Eleven.

In all of the heists, Walker said, the suspects waited outside the stores for customers to leave and then barged in and demanded cash.

One suspect is a 5-foot-8, thin black man in his 20s who always wears a gray Aeropostale sweatshirt, Walker said. Another is also a thin black man in his 20s. He wears a black quilted jacket with fur around the collar. Police have no description of the third man.

Tipsters can contact detectives at 215-476-1131. *