First, yes, there is a pretty high crime rate, especially near the university of Penn. I am not sure if it is a lot of crime by volumne, or simply high profile stories, but serious stories about crime around the Penn campus area are not as rare as one would hope.
Second, there are a huge number of students and young professionals in the area. The large three story homes in this area are perfect for chopping up into several rental units and renting out to local professionals, and university students.
Regentrification is something I have seen, and is present around the area as well, and is giving rise to inflated home prices, so some people may be cashign in by selling their home as a fixer upper to those who wish to follow the trend of regentrification.