Unless you’ve been living under a Geodude, you’re probably aware of the “Pokémon Go” craze that has the nation in its GPS-enabled grip.
Nintendo’s popular augmented reality mobile game requires players to use their smartphones to capture digital monsters in the real world — and it’s been causing some real-world havoc across the country.
• In Forest Grove, Ore., a man was stabbed while playing “Pokémon Go” early Monday morning.
Michael Baker told KPTV he was walking at about 1 a.m. when he saw another man who he thought might also be playing “Pokémon.”
“I saw him go by and asked if he was playing ‘Pokémon Go,’” Baker said. “He was like, ‘What?’ I guess he wanted to battle because he came up at me with a knife.”
But Baker didn’t allow a stab wound that required eight stitches to get in the way of his gaming.
“Right after I was stabbed, I continued my mission to Plaid Pantry for chips and beer,” he said.
• In O’Fallon, Mo., police say four teens “staked out specific spots they knew would draw players of the popular ‘Pokémon Go’ game, then robbed them.” Three were charged with first-degree armed robbery, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. A fourth suspect, aged 16, was placed in the custody of juvenile authorities.
“People really need to watch what they’re doing and make sure their kids understand where this game could lead them,” O’Fallon Police Sgt. Phil Hardin said. “Our concern is that some of the way points in this game are in geographically more dangerous areas than others.”
• In Bridgewater, Mass., a 19-year-old woman reported that she was nearly abducted by two men in a van in broad daylight while playing the game. “I was looking for a Pokémon for the ‘Pokémon Go’ app,” Maddie Olson told WBZ-TV. “These guys literally floored their car and, like, swung it towards me.” Olson ran and the men drove away. Police are investigating the incident.
• In Yukon, Okla., police say an officer had to swerve out of the way to avoid a head-on collision with a distracted driver. According to Yukon Mayor Mitch Hoskins, the driver, Dylan Lykins, admitted to police he had been playing “Pokémon Go.” Lykins was issued a $151 citation for “inattentive driving without accident.”
“Trying to catch a Pokémon while behind the wheel is a major distraction and increases your risk of causing a crash,” AAA spokesman Josh Carrasco said in a statement this week. “Put your phone down while driving. Just one quick text or glance to see the next Pokéstop could end up costing you or someone else their life.”
— SCV Sheriff (@SCVSHERIFF) July 11, 2016
• In Santa Monica, Calif., police “were faced with an enormous crowd packing the area around the pier” on Monday as “Pokémon Go” users hunted for the game’s key character, Pikachu, the Los Angeles Times reported, while the LAPD said it received trespassing complaints from private property owners.
The next day, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued a safety advisory to “Pokémon Go” players:
– Don’t play while driving. The last thing we need is a dead Pokémon.
– Stay vigilant as you play. Distraction can cause injuries, especially when you walk into traffic.
– Play in well-lit areas. As far as we know, there are no glow-in-the-dark Pokémon.
– If you suspect you are being followed, yell for help and use your phone to call 9-1-1.
– Gamers are strangers, too. Just because they like Pokémon does not mean they will be nice to you. Be cautious of being lured into a bad situation.
– Pokémon have homes too … just not yours. So if you are not invited, stay out of private property. We can guarantee you won’t find Pokémon in a jail.
– Although you may not be able to battle your real-life BFF, you can definitely teach him some things. So have him walk with you.
– And if you see Pokémon near a deputy, let him know! Pokémon might be telling you to also look for a career! We are hiring 1-800-A-DEPUTY.
– Always be safe and enjoy the game!
• In Goochland County, Va., the sheriff’s department released a far more stern warning to “Pokémon Go” players.
“Deputies have located numerous individuals on business, church and government properties at all hours of the night, when these places are closed to the public,” the Goochland County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on its Facebook page. “These actions are considered trespassing and put the individual and deputies in a position of unnecessary risk. Please refrain from going onto property without proper permission or after appropriate times.”
• In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a statement on Monday firmly requesting that visitors not play “Pokémon Go” while on its premises.
“We feel playing ‘Pokémon Go’ in a memorial dedicated to the victims of Nazism is inappropriate,” Andrew Hollinger, the museum’s communications director, told Yahoo News. “We encourage visitors to use their phones to share and engage with museum content while here. Technology can be an important learning tool, but this game falls outside of our educational and memorial mission. We are looking into how the museum can be removed from it.”
The Arlington National Cemetery also requested that visitors avoid the game on its grounds.
We do not consider playing “Pokemon Go” to be appropriate decorum on the grounds of ANC. We ask all visitors to refrain from such activity.
— Arlington Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) July 12, 2016
Niantic, the software firm that developed the app, provided a website for people to report inappropriate real-world locations of the game’s features.
• On Capitol Hill, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken sent a letter asking the app’s developer to address concerns that the company “may be unnecessarily collecting, using and sharing a wide range of users’ personal information without their appropriate consent.”
Elsewhere, though, the popularity of “Pokémon Go” has had a positive effect.
• In Cincinnati, a group of friends playing the game were on their way home when they came upon a slow-moving car with an unconscious couple who had apparently overdosed inside.
“When we drove past, at first it did look like they were both just looking down at their phones, and then we realized that they weren’t moving at all,” Kenneth Wright told WLWT-TV.
They called 911, and paramedics were able to stabilize the couple and transport them to a local hospital.
• In Fullerton, Calif., a pair of Marines playing “Pokémon Go” helped catch an attempted murder suspect, police say.
Seth Ortega and Javier Soch were playing the game in a local park on Tuesday when Soch’s game froze. Soch looked up and noticed a man who appeared to be harassing a woman and her children, who were also playing “Pokémon Go.”
“The gentleman actually walks up and touches one of the children, one of the boys, his toe, and starts working his way up to the knee,” Ortega explained to KABC-TV.
The woman called 911, and Ortega and Soch stayed with the man until police arrived. It was later discovered the suspect had an outstanding warrant for attempted murder in Sonoma County.
• In Riverton, Wyo., a 19-year-old woman who was playing “Pokémon Go” found the body of a man lying face-down in the river.
“I woke up this morning, and I wanted to go get a water Pokémon, so I just got up and went for my little walk — a walk to catch Pokémon,” Shayla Wiggins told County News 10.
The Fremont County Sheriff’s Department said “the death appears to be accidental in nature and possibly that of a drowning” and that there is no evidence of foul play.
• And in Holyoke, Mass., a man said his home, a converted church, has become a popular destination for “Pokémon Go” players — not that he minds.
“So, I was having a cup of coffee Sunday morning, looking out the window and going, ‘Hmm, there’s some strangers,’” Boon Sheridan told CBS Boston. “All it will take is one jerk to ruin it, but everyone has been super cool up until now.”