Spend any amount of time in a city today and you will quickly notice how some individuals drift from place to place with their eyes barely leaving a smartphone a few inches from their face. We've seen reports of health issues associated with constantly staring at a smartphone, such as smartphone back. Some cities have taken the measure of either banning smartphone use whilst walking or introducing dedicated zombie lanes for smartphone obsessed people. This weekend things have been worse than normal. The reason for this? It's because players all over the world are playing Pokémon GO, which requires people to track monsters using a live map.
This game is about collecting monsters using Nintendo's augmented reality monster engine. Players locate various Pokémon GO monsters or characters on a map and head to the area. When they are in range, they are able to see the character and can capture it by flicking Pokémon Balls at it. It sounds harmless enough, at least in the context of players tracking their target monsters down by walking about the land with their face buried in their smartphone oblivious to the hazards they may be heading into. We've already seen how the Australian Police have issued a statement asking pedestrians to watch the traffic when crossing the street, but now there's a more sinister element to the game. It appears that criminals are using the Pokémon GO game to target victims and rob them.
In the case of O'Fallon, Missouri, police are investigating a number of armed robberies in the St. Charles and St. Louis counties where Pokémon GO players appear to be targeted. The police report that they located four teenagers between 16 to 18 in a black BMW with at least one sidearm, when responding to calls about an armed robbery in the small hours of Sunday morning. The police believe that the suspects were using a Pokémon GO beacon to lure players to a given location (a Pokestop) and the example given was the middle of a parking lot. Once players were in place, they were robbed. Police believe the group are responsible for eight or nine robberies over the last few days. If you are playing the game, be aware of your surroundings.