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The recent influx of crime on and around campus may be part of a national trend.

Between Aug. 27 and Sept. 23, there were 15 robberies in the University Police Department's patrol area, five of which involved weapons, according to UPPD officials.

Last year over the same period, there were eight.

Still, most experts say it's a little early to call the University a war zone.

"There is too little evidence yet to conclude that this is a lasting trend," Director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology Lawrence Sherman said in an e-mail.

"All data trends bounce around, and with a difference of seven robberies so far, it is hard to be sure what is happening."

Philadelphia Police Department Chief Inspector Keith Sadler agreed that it is hard to analyze crime patterns over such a short period of time.

He added that what might look like a period of abnormally high criminal activity may end up averaging out "when you look at a five-year or 10-year pattern."

Unfortunately, History Professor Eric Schneider, who has taught courses about the history of crime, noted that Penn is not alone in dealing with an increased crime rate, and that the problems it is facing may be a part of something larger.

"There's clearly an upsurge in crime, I think, that's happening nationally," Schneider said. "I would not necessarily call it a crime wave. I think that tends to be an inflammatory term and I would stay away from it."

He explained that while there has been a decreased level of crime nationwide over the past six to eight years, the larger trend over the past few decades has been an upward one. Annual fluctuations, whether up or down, should simply be seen as "short-term shift."

For instance, the greatly heralded crime rates during this decade are similar to those in the 1950s -- but at that time, the numbers were considered extremely high.

"It's important to realize that in the mid-1950s when people were experiencing this type of crime rate, they were talking about what was a major increase in crime," Schneider explained.

Sadler agreed, citing the fact that at Penn, the exceptionally low crime rates over the past few years make the past months seem scarier.

"Any increase after you've had a decrease looks horrendous," he said.

Still, according to Philadelphia Police, robbery rates citywide have increased only minimally this year. In September and August of 2002, there were 1,593 robberies in Philadelphia, and in the same period this year, there were 1,615 -- an increase of about 1 percent.

So why does the increase in crimes seem to be concentrated in the area around the University?

"What is it that Willie Sutton said about why he spent all his time robbing banks?" Schneider asked. "Because that's where the money was."

He explained that during economic downturns such as the one the country is presently experiencing, property crimes often go up because people who once had jobs simply cannot support themselves anymore.

Criminals then look for areas in which fairly affluent victims are likely to be -- and Penn is among these targets.

Sadler added that students are often easy targets, saying that "Temple's campus and surrounding area, as well as La Salle's, have experienced slight increases in certain categories like robberies and thefts from auto," since the beginning of the year.

"Sometimes students don't realize that you shouldn't go to the MAC machine at 3 o'clock in the morning," Sadler said.

So should everyone just buckle down -- is all this crime here to stay?

"Will it continuously be this trend?" Vice President of Public Safety Maureen Rush asked. "I sure hope not. And if it is, we're going to try and make sure we displace it from this community."

Sherman is not sure whether the crime will continue going up.

"Too soon to tell," he said.

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