JOLIET, Ill. (STMW) – A crew of gun-toting bandits have burst into four houses in seven nights, tying and taping up the people inside before making off with their money and — in one case — a mysterious black box and bag.

This past week the thugs struck twice in Crest Hill and twice in Joliet, hitting houses on Nicholson Street, Arbor Lane, Third Avenue and Bellarmine Drive.

“These (two) seem to match up with Crest Hill’s two they had last week,” Joliet Deputy Police Chief Mike Trafton said of the Friday night heist on Third Avenue and the one Saturday night on Bellarmine.

On Friday night, police said, three black men in black hooded sweat shirts and blue jeans forced the door to an apartment and used duct tape to bind three women, a man and a 9-year-old boy.

When the cops got there, they found one of the women with tape still around her neck. She had suffered a head injury and was taken to Silver Cross Hospital.

Police said that one of the three robbers answered to the name “Twan” and another to “Mario.” They stole a black box and black bag from the apartment, Trafton said, but police have yet to learn what either contained.

The crooks also were concerned with the amount of time they were spending in the house and were quick to make their escape down an alley, police said.

The next night, Trafton said, the same three struck at a residence on Bellarmine Drive. This time, they forced their way in and tied up three adults and three children under the age of 12.

Once again, one of the bandits answered to the name “Twan,” another responded to “Shorty” and the third was called “Young.” They were about the same height and weight as the men from Third Avenue and were outfitted in the same clothes.

Curiously, the waylaid residents had little to say to the cops.

“The subjects were totally uncooperative,” Trafton said. “We got all the information from a juvenile.”

Earlier in the week in Crest Hill, the cops were grappling with solving the same sort of crimes.

On the night of Oct. 17, a residence on Nicholson Street was robbed and on Thursday night, an Arbor Lane apartment was hit. Once again, three hooded men committed the capers, said police Chief Dwayne Wilkerson.

On Nicholson Street, the occupants of the house were tied up, the place was ransacked, and some cash was taken. Over on Arbor, when the trio burst into the house, a man sleeping in a second-floor bedroom leaped out the window and ran, leaving two women in the residence behind to fend for themselves.

The crooks did not tie up the women but did take money from a purse belonging to one of them, police said.

Trafton said detectives from his department are working with investigators from Crest Hill to find a link between the targets of the home invasions.

“All these crimes are very similar in nature,” Trafton said.

“Our victims don’t appear to be random, they seem to be targeted,” he said. “We are also looking into our victims to develop some kind of M.O.”

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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