The virtual smartphone game Pokemon Go is the newest rage, but is it causing and solving crimes? Some, as it turns out. It’s also leading to a host of law enforcement warnings and other bizarre incidents.
The geo-catching game allows people to find and capture Pokémon characters at various locations. “Please use caution when alerting strangers,” of your location, one Missouri Police Department urged players after revealing that it believed robbers were using Pokemon Go to target people playing the game. A campus police department at the University of Maryland reported students were robbed in a Pokemon Go-related incident too.
Although there have been other reports of crimes related to Pokeman Go usage, Rolling Stone says other stories that circulated the Internet were fake, among them reports that a child in Chicago was stabbed after going into the wrong neighborhood and that a Florida boy had murdered his brother for his Pokemon collection.
But other crimes have been legitimate. CNN describes the game this way for those unfamiliar with it: “Pokemon Go uses augmented reality — tapping your phone’s camera to superimpose cute, virtual creatures in the real world. It was released on (July 7) and has already been downloaded more than a million times on Android and Apple devices.” It’s already the biggest mobile game in history.
In positive news, Pokemon Go is also helping some people with fitness and even depression. Local businesses are using it as an advertising tool to lure customers.
Here are some of the real crimes solved and caused by Pokémon Go, as well as other problems:
Armed Robbers Target Pokemon Go Players in Missouri, Maryland & Other States
In a July 10 press release posted on Facebook, the O’Fallon, Missouri Police Department reported that armed robbers had “targeted their victims through the Pokemon Go smart phone application.” The police said they had responded to a 2 a.m. report of an armed robbery and located four suspects believed to have committed numerous armed robberies in St. Louis and St. Counties.
“Many of you have asked how the app was used to rob victims,” continued the police. “The way we believe it was used is you can add a beacon to a pokestop to lure more players. Apparently they were using the app to locate ppl standing around in the middle of a parking lot or whatever other location they were in.” A local television station obtained mug shots of some of the men charged:
In Antelope, California, two men said they were robbed by a gunman of their phones and carjacked while playing Pokemon Go in a local park. “If you don’t want to get hurt, give me your phones,” the gunman said, the men reported, according to the LA Times, which published a list of tips for people wanting to stay safe, including remaining vigilant of surroundings and to play in well list areas.
Those weren’t the only reports of robberies. The University of Maryland police reported that people were robbed outside a university building, saying “What we know is that three of the victims were playing the Pokémon Go game. The fourth victim was not playing the game but had their phone out.”
In another case, users in Edmonton reported being led to an actual robbery.
In San Francisco, a brother and sister were also robbed of their phones while playing the game.
California Marines Help Catch Suspected Murder Suspect While Playing Pokemon Go
ABC7 reports that “two men playing Pokemon Go helped police catch an attempted murder suspect in Fullerton on Tuesday.” Fullerton is located in California.
The news station identified the men as Seth Ortega and Javier Soch, both Marines, and said that Sochi’s game froze and “he happened to look up and noticed a man carrying a red plastic rose.” The men watched as the man approached a woman with three children, who ran away from him; the mother called 911 and the two Marines watched the man, the TV station said.
The man then approached another woman with two children, who were playing Pokemon Go, according to ABC7. When officers arrived, they arrested the man for “child annoyance” but also discovered that he had an open warrant for attempted murder from Sonoma, California, said ABC7.
Teenage Girl Finds Dead Body While Playing Pokemon Go
In Wyoming, a teenage girl discovered a dead body while playing the game. CNN reports that Shayla Wiggins, 19, was catching virtual animals as she walked through a parking lot and gas station.
Wiggins decided to explore the Big Wind River, telling CNN: “I was trying to get a water Pokemon.” She discovered a “man’s body lying face down in the water six feet to her left.”
Wiggins called police, and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office said the man probably drowned in the three-foot water and that they are investigating the death as an accident, said CNN.
Pokemon Go Leads People to Home With More than Forty Sex Offenders
Fox 10 News in Phoenix reported that one Pokemon Go location went to a home for sex offenders. One of the beacons used in the game is a home where 43 registered sex offenders live, said the news station.
Parents are advised to check state sex offender registries for areas their children will be walking in while playing the game. Many law enforcement agencies have expressed concerns that criminals could abuse the game.
Police Spot Increased Trespassing & Warn About Car & Other Accidents
The Goochland County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia found that people were going into closed businesses, churches, and government buildings looking for Pokemon characters, said KTLA, adding that it’s trespassing.
The Wyoming, Minnesota Police Department was among the agencies warning people against trespassing, including in other people’s back yards, KTLA added. The Tennessee Highway Safety Office and Washington State Department of Transportation warned drivers not to use the app while driving. “Wait. Park. Then, Pokemon GO! Do NOT use mobile gaming apps while driving,” the Tennessee Highway Safety Office wrote on Facebook. “…Eyes on the road, Pokemon masters!” In Los Angeles, police were investigating whether a multi-car pileup was caused by someone playing Pokemon Go.
Other agencies are warning people to be aware of their surroundings as they walk around and not keep their eyes glued to their phones, which could be dangerous. Reuters reported that some people have suffered minor injuries from falling and tripping while playing the game.
Police in Virginia issued a warning after seeing more people “walking aimlessly in circles while staring at their phones,” said KTLA. One African-American man, Omari Akil, wrote on Medium.com that he tried playing Pokemon Go but became fearful wandering around because of recent police shootings and racism. “I walked past a somewhat visibly disturbed white woman on her way to the bus stop,” he noted.
Ladder Truck Cut off by Pokemon Go Players in St. Louis
In St. Louis, The Fairview Caseyville Township Fire Protection District’s ladder truck was cut off by a van filled with people chasing Pokemon.
The district posted an account of the incident on Facebook, writing, “After using our ladder truck to replace an American flag at a local autism center we had our first encounter with the new Pokémon GO game. Our ladder is an 81,000 lb machine and has a hard time stopping on a dime. As we proceeded through the stop sign we were cut off by a van who decided to run the stop sign, causing us to slam on the brakes. As they passed they yelled “sorry we are chasing Pokémon”…. Absolutely unacceptable. Please be responsible when playing this new game and especially DO NOT DRIVE WHILE PLAYING IT! And to the people who cut us off… we hope you lost the Pokémon you were searching for. Have a wonderful day.”
Pokemon Go Players Warned About Using National Cemeteries & Disrespecting Troops’ Graves
Fox 2 in St. Louis says that officials are “asking players to stay away” from cemeteries. “The craze has just crossed the line as far as the families of America’s veterans and war dead are concerned,” said the news station.
Fox 2 says that people were caught playing Pokemon “among the troops’ grave sites” at National Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri. Arlington National Cemetery has warned people not to play the game at Arlington.
It’s a violation of federal law to play Pokemon Go at U.S. Military burial sites, Fox 2 said.
U.S. Holocaust Museum Asks People not to Play Pokemon Go There
According to NPR, the reason people are playing Pokemon Go at Arlington and the U.S. Holocaust Museum is because they are both “designated as PokeStops” in the game. Noted NPR: “The game has a geographic database of notable or interesting locations meant to be visited in person — Pokestops, where players can retrieve helpful items like potions, or gyms, where they can train their Pokemon.”
The U.S. Holocaust Museum is now asking the game’s developer, Niantic Labs, to remove the museum from the game. Andrew Hollinger, the museum’s director of communications, told NPR: “Playing Pokémon Go in a memorial dedicated to the victims of Nazism is extremely inappropriate. We are attempting to have the Museum removed from the game.”