University reports uptick in robberies, alerts this summer

Five armed robberies were reported by the TU Alert system on or near Main Campus in August as students returned for the new academic year.

Temple Police said the rise in robberies may have occurred near the end of the summer because campus activity increased as students returned.

Capt. Edward Woltemate of the Temple Police’s Investigations Unit said another change may have led to the increase in incidents.

“This summer is a little bit different because now we’re including our new extended patrol area,” Woltemate told The Temple News.

Last September, the boundaries of the police patrol area were extended to Susquehanna Avenue to the north and Jefferson Street to the south between 9th and 18th streets.

Although none of the five armed robberies reported in August occurred in the newly incorporated territory, members of the Temple Police interviewed for this article did say more alerts may have been sent out this summer, given the expanded patrol zone.

President Theobald told The Temple News last week he wants Temple’s campus to continue expanding. By law, Temple Police are only allowed to patrol areas within 500 yards of a Temple-owned property, Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said.

Capt. Jeffrey Chapman, who is in charge of security operations and special events, suggested the patrol area may move south when the university develops the William Penn High School property.

Most of the armed robberies that occurred in August did not involve Temple students. Two pizza delivery drivers were robbed at gunpoint in separate incidents; a 7-Eleven was held up; and a drug store was robbed.

In one incident, four men attacked a student on Norris Street near 15th on Aug. 14. Leone said the 21-year-old victim was struck in the head before surrendering $40. After a brief struggle, one of the suspects threatened the student with a knife in order to get the victim’s cellphone, Leone added. Woltemate said no progress has been made in the search for the suspects.

Chapman urged students to be vigilant when traveling on or near campus, especially in regard to how they display their cellphones.

“Who walks around with $300 in their hand? Nobody, right? This is $300,” he said, holding up his smartphone.

Leone added that stealing electronics, specifically cellphones, is on the rise throughout the country. The Federal Communications Commission reported about one in three robberies involve the theft of a cellphone.

Mobile phones, though often targeted by thieves, are useful to Temple Police because they are easily able to communicate with students through text messages via the TU Alert system.

“We made a conscious effort to put out more alerts and more information,” Leone said. “Probably people today are getting more alerts than they were getting a year ago and than a year before that.”

“So we’re getting all this information that’s kind of scary but it also helps you make decisions,” he added.

Many of the alerts sent to students in August advised them to avoid the area where the crime occurred. Leone said this was sent out because while criminals usually do not return to the scene, having a crowd of onlookers can cause “confusion” for police.

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jack.tomczuk@temple.edu or on Twitter @JackTomczuk.

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