A rash of seven armed robberies in the past month has Southgate areamerchants on edge and county detectives scouring the area for clues.

"Whoever this guy is, he's real crazy. It's like he needs money for crack or something and that has everybody in this shopping center nervous," said Daphne Howk, manager of the Subway sandwich shop wherea robbery was foiled June 19 when a sandwich-maker chased the robberaway with a 12-inch kitchen knife.

Sgt. George Johnson, supervisor of robbery investigations for thecounty's Criminal Investigations Division, said he believes one or two men are responsible for the string of robberies that have turned the Southgate area into the county's criminal "hot spot."

In the past month, the following robberies have occurred in the area:

June 9, 10 p.m.: A man with a gold tooth showed off a gun while robbing the Soda Pop Shop on Hospital Drive.

June 11, 10:53 p.m.: A man witha gold tooth robbed Fabricare By Fran on Hospital Drive with what police call an "implied weapon," meaning the suspect never showed it.

June 13, 11:10 a.m.: A man with a gold tooth robbed the Tuesday Morning store, in the same strip shopping center as the first two robberies, using an "implied weapon."

June 19, 9:30 p.m.: A man with a gold tooth man tried to rob the Subway shop, but was frightened away by a sandwich-maker with a knife. The suspect did not produce a gun and reportedly said he'd be back to get the clerk.

June 24, 4:11 a.m.: A man used a fake bomb in a foiled attempt to rob the Shell station at the corner of Hospital Drive and Crain Highway. The clerk calledthe man's bluff, phoning police instead of emptying the cash register.

June 26, 4:00 a.m.: The Dash In in the 7900 block of Crain Highway was robbed with an implied gun by a man who bought a pack of Newport cigarettes.

July 4, 3:35 a.m.: The same Dash In was robbed -- this time by two men, one of whom bought a pack of Newport cigarettes, the other produced a revolver.

Police believe that at least fourof the robberies were committed by the same black male with a gold front tooth. Accounts from victims have been sketchy, listing the suspect anywhere from 5-8 to 6-4 in height, but Johnson points out that criminals "have a way of growing in their victim's mind."

The robber, robbers and/or attempted robbers escaped the scenes of their crimes on foot into nearby woods, thus evading the swarms of patrol officers in the area.

Howk, of the Subway, said there have been robberies in the area before, but never so frequently.

She said some shop managers have grown so edgy that they are staying until closing and locking their doors after dark, only admitting customers one-by-one.

"Everybody's on their toes," she said.

Police have stepped up the frequency of their routine patrols in the area and have circulated a word composite description of the gold-toothed man to area merchants.

Johnson said anybody with information or clues about the crimescan call him at 222-3465 or the Crimestoppers hot line at 276-8888.

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