YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Thanks to Pokemon Go, a free mobile game, hundreds of residents have been out and about the last few weeks exploring landmarks, churches and other points of interest. The augmented-reality game, released nationwide July 6, is based off real maps and allows players to walk around town to find and catch different types of Pokemon (there are 140 of these virtual creatures in the game).
Some of these notable locations, such as St. Patrick's Church and the Yorktown Jewish Center, have been designated by designers of the game as "gyms," where competing trainers battle their Pokemon to gain control of the location.
There are dozens more Pokestops, where players can replenish their stock of Pokeballs (used to catch Pokemon) and earn other items. At these Pokestops, players can also use items to attract more Pokemon, causing them to stay in the same location for extended periods of time.
While all in good fun, the game has created several issues, according to various news reports. Gamers and drivers exploring the maps with their heads buried in their phones are creating potential safety concerns. Also, because the gyms and Pokestops were chosen by the developers, some owners of those locations have complained about being selected due to loitering and trespassing. There have also been reports of criminals waiting at Pokestops and gyms to rob and/or harm players of the game.
Lt. Tom Gentner said the Yorktown Police Department is familiarizing itself with the game. He said the solution to avoiding most of these problems is common sense.
"We would encourage people to use wisdom when using this type of app," he said. "While it may seem like fun, the issues—inattention while driving/walking, possibly being lured someplace by someone—are concerns for the police, as they should be for people using the application. Participants should always use common sense and keep their personal safety in mind while doing this."
The game, for its part, specifically warns players to be alert while playing.
Melissa McMorris, public information officer for New York State Police Troop K, offered additional safety tips:
- Never trespass
- Don’t play the game while driving
- Be aware of your surroundings (crossing streets, avoid walking into the streets and intersections)
- Use common sense—play smart
- Be aware of the dangers and possible traps by criminals
- Don’t allow children to play alone without a supervised adult
- Teens can always invite a friend so they are not playing alone