The report crackled over Lt. Russell Moody Jr.'s handheld police radio: Armed males had just committed a home-invasion robbery mere blocks from Temple University's main campus.

Moody rushed in an unmarked police SUV to the crime scene: a house near 17th and Diamond Streets where, it turned out, five female Temple students lived.

One of the university's worst fears - students being the victims of violent crimes - yielded on a recent weekend to a story of personal betrayal.

What really happened was a burglary - set up, allegedly, by a best friend of one of the housemates. Surveillance video showed the female suspect letting the unidentified males into the unlocked front of the house to look around, Moody said. The males, who did not appear to be armed, then reentered the house from the rear and reportedly stole five laptop computers. Only one resident was inside. She was upstairs and saw nothing.

It was not a terrifying home invasion, but it was an example of crime occurring around off-campus housing, something the university wants to keep at bay.

At the beginning of the fall semester, Temple expanded the zone patrolled by campus police to include more off-campus blocks where thousands of students live.

The move was prompted in large part by a vicious brick attack in March on a female student just outside the patrol zone's previous boundaries.

"It was a horrific incident. We all took it personally," said Charles Leone, who heads the university police department as executive director of Campus Safety Services.

The patrol zone expansion was in the works, but the brick attack persuaded the university "to really move our timeline up," Leone said.

The most significant spread of the boundary was west from 16th Street to 18th Street, which is where off-campus housing has grown the most. The rest of the patrol zone is now contained in a simple geographic box.

"It just made a lot more sense. Now it's easier to understand," said senior Ray Smeriglio, 21, Temple's student body president. He lives at 17th and Berks Streets, inside the new patrol boundary. His sister, who graduated in 2008, also lived in off-campus housing.

"She was one of the first pioneers to move out to 16th Street," he said, making a point about how quickly perceived boundaries have crept outward for off-campus housing.

"I know a lot of students in the past couple of years have started living on 18th," said Gemma Duffy, 21, a senior who lives near 17th and Oxford Streets.

"It's less expensive to live off-campus," she said. "The further out you get from campus, the less expensive it becomes."

Only recently has the university attempted to get a precise count of how many students live around the main campus.

Leone said students were now required to provide their addresses when using Temple's internal online system known as Banner. An official count is not yet available, but the university estimates from 5,000 to 6,000 students live off-campus, Leone said.

That is about double the estimate from 2005.

Until the 1990s, Temple was regarded as a commuter university. It then began to transform into a traditional university, which continues today with new construction of on-campus housing and facilities.

The number of full-time students has grown from 19,039 in 1999 to more than 32,000 now.

Part of Temple's growing pains has been its effort to maintain campus safety in the middle of North Philadelphia, which has historically been beset by high rates of crime.

With 130 sworn officers, Temple boasts one of the largest campus police forces in the nation.

The university also contracts with the private firm AlliedBarton to add the equivalent of 250 full-time security employees. They patrol in the expanded zone, but do not have police powers.

Then there is the city's 22d Police District, which includes the university. The district's headquarters are at 17th and Montgomery Streets, which now falls inside Temple's patrol zone.

Add some SEPTA transit police around the subway station at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, and the overall number of personnel dedicated to public safety appears impressive.

But students still express concern and frustration, especially in light of high-profile incidents of violence.

"I think a lot of students are getting fed up," said Martin Shnayder, 22, a senior who lives on Cecil B. Moore between 16th and 17th.

In February, Shnayder experienced firsthand the quandary of maintaining student safety off-campus.

He was walking home around 2:15 a.m. on Cecil B. Moore when "I felt a pinch in my stomach," he said. "I lifted up my shirt and saw I was bleeding."

Shnayder had been grazed by a bullet during a gun battle that erupted down the street outside a nightclub.

After the incident, Shnayder's parents wanted him to move back home in Bucks County. He suffered lingering pain and a few months of anxiety on the streets, but decided to stay at his apartment.

"I didn't want to live in fear," he said.

Shnayder said he does not feel safer with the expanded patrols.

However, he conceded, "I don't know how much more they can really do."

215-854-5983 @RobertMoran215