Pokemon Go leads to police catching trespassers, robbers
Not even a month after its release, the augmented reality mobile game Pokemon Go has led to a surge in game-related crimes in cities and counties across the U.S.
In the game, players use their smartphones to find fictional animals, called Pokemon, that are hidden across the landscape. Many areas and landmarks either contain "wild" Pokemon to catch, "Pokestops" at which players gather supplies for the game, or Pokemon "gyms" at which players do battle for the team they choose to join. These areas can attract players at all hours.
For instance, the Goochland County, Va. Sheriff’s Office has reported seeing players at businesses, churches and government offices late at night, the Daily Mail reports. Sometimes players of the game arouse suspicions, and sometimes they are flat out breaking the law.
“These actions are considered trespassing and put the individual and deputies in a position of unnecessary risk,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement that warned children against accessing private areas after hours.
Hanover, Pa. police discovered cars parked at a cemetery and another area closed to the public at night, inside which officers found people playing the game, The Evening Sun reports. Officers issued warnings in each instance, and the West Mannheim Township Police Department summarily published a Facebook post advising players to be aware of their surroundings and to use good judgment when playing the game.
Players have also used the game for more nefarious purposes. Two players were robbed and carjacked in Antelope, Calif., while a man stole the phones of two teenage players in San Francisco, according to the LA Times.
Additionally, four teens in O’Fallon, Mo. hid in spots that they knew would lure players of the game, then robbed them, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.
“People really need to watch what they’re doing and make sure their kids understand where this game could lead them,” O’Fallon Sgt. Phil Hardin told the Dispatch. “Our concern is that some of the way points in this game are in geographically more dangerous areas than others. Other people are using the machinations of all this to put people in danger.”
But Pokemon Go has also helped some police departments solve crimes. Two players in Fullerton, Calif. helped police catch a man bothering children at a playground, the LA Times reports. The man was later found to be wanted for murder by Sonoma County, Calif.
Several states have also had to issue warnings to not play the game while driving. Drivers on Wisconsin’s highways can expect to see digital signs that read, “Drive now. Catch Pokemon later,” according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has issued a similar message on their digital highway signs: “Pokemon Go is a no-go while driving,” AZCentral reports.
"Although we hope you 'catch ’em all,' if you’re not focused on driving with your eyes on the road, you’re at a higher risk of injuring or killing yourself and others in a crash. No Pokemon is worth that,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said in a statement.