Pokémon Go is a mobile app that has swept the nation by storm. It has encouraged people of all ages to go outside, walk around and try to catch the infamous characters from the show, and has even been noted by many media outlets for aiding with helping people exercise more.
However, a more sinister side to app has shown its head recently with London Metropolitan Police announcing that there have been an increase in crimes relating to the app. 105 crimes across Britain have been linked to the app within 5 weeks. These crimes not only include cybercrime, but also muggings, drugs and attacks against the person.
“The app is a lot of fun and perfect for fans of the show and trading card game, like me,” said Emma, a 26 year old game operator and big Pokémon fan. “It gets me out of the house and walk a hell of a lot more, but I can understand why some people would be scared. I’ve found myself worried about the areas I’ve been in when trying to catch them sweet rare Pokémon.”
The app was first released in July 2016 and these are the figures which show how crime has been linked to it.
Due to the app’s popularity, it is easy to assume that anyone on the street would have it and with Cardiff’s abundance of Pokéstops, Pokégyms and ‘spawning nests’, anywhere could be a target.
— Team Mystic Cardiff (@TeamMysticCDF) December 1, 2016
Players can put down things called lures. These attract more Pokémon to a certain area and anyone else playing can see it and benefit from it.
— Callum Low (@Metaltrigzer) December 20, 2016
Dropping these lures is a popular way to draw people to a certain area, making it easy for people planning on committing crimes. This way their targets are brought to them.
“I was heading towards a lure once,” said Jess, 22, training supervisor. “It was getting close to dark and I was on my way home from work, but thought I could take a little detour. When I got close something didn’t quite feel right. There weren’t as many people around as I expected there to be and the whole place was badly lit. I had a really bad feeling so I left straight away and went back home.”
The app is aimed at all ages and can be downloaded onto most smartphones, leading the people who target users to have a wide range of potential victims.
“It is really crazy,” said Chris, a 25 year old waiter. “Young kids have access to the app and they could get hurt through it. I mean, kinds are often with their parents when walking around parks looking for Pokémon, but some young teenagers aren’t. What happens when they think catching a Pikachu is more important than getting out of an area that may not be the safest? They may not even know stuff like this is happening. It’s really sad to think they could get hurt or something because of it.”
Community safety is a big aspect that is now being encouraged by the police and the developers of Pokémon Go themselves.
“I think it would be great if there were more advice on how to stay safe while playing,” Jess went onto say. “It would help keep everyone safe and make us players less of a target. Or even having more neighbourhood watch areas to see if people are just lurking near dropped lures. That kind of stuff would be great.”
Many safety warnings have been issued advising users on how to stay safe while they use the app. These tend to be in regard to staying alert when crossing roads and being wary of trespassing.
“I just want some peace of mind that my kids will be fine when they go out to catch these Pokémon,” said Mary, a 42 year old mother of avid Pokémon Go players. “They’re always wanting to go down to the bay and see what Pokémon are around – apparently there are loads. Now, the bay isn’t the most dangerous of places, but bad stuff can still happen. Knowing that there are officers or even just everyday people watching out for anyone playing the game would make me feel a lot better about my children. I shouldn’t have to worry about things like this!”
The police have recommended that people stay vigilant while playing the game and pay close attention to the environment they are in. There is also talk of increasing neighbourhood watch patrols in certain areas in an attempt to reduce the crimes linked to this.
Having mobile phones out while walking around can make people a target of mobile phone theft, which the police have described as a “very real problem”. This is because they can be targeted for their devices as they will be on show while using the app.
Carefully using phones in public can limit the chance of being targeted. People are encouraged to continue enjoying the app and to have fun whilst playing, but to stay vigilant while doing so.