Pokémon app creating safety concerns

Joe Lopez, junior in engineering, sits down with his phone in the Quad on campus while other students and residents congregate around the Pokéstop on July 12, 2016. Lopez and everyone else were playing 'Pokémon GO' and found this spot after a ‘lure’ was placed to attract other players on the game. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

A week after its release, ‘Pokémon GO’ has made headlines not only for its popularity, but also for safety concerns. In O’Fallon, Missouri last weekend, teens used the app as bait to rob victims. On Wednesday, the New York City Police Department issued safety tips for players of the augmented reality game.

In Manhattan, there have been a few concerns about safety as well. Mat Droge, RCPD’s public information officer, said safety is always looked at by law enforcement.

“No matter what is put out there, there’s always concerns about safety,” Droge said. “But it’s great to see people being active and playing in groups.”

On Monday, RCPD tweeted a message reminding people to be responsible while playing.

Droge said that while he and others in the department viewed the game favorably, he did say there is concern about people watching their surroundings while walking and trespassing onto private property in search of more Pokémon.

“We’ve had to make one (motor) stop involving a person playing Pokémon and driving,” Droge said.

Ella Casey, Sunset Zoo’s assistant zoo director, said her staff noticed the popularity of the Pokémon app. As a result, the staff decided to introduce a Pokémon special promotion.

“This weekend we absolutely did notice more visitors,” Casey said. “We think it’s awesome. As a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, I’m getting flooded by emails from zoos all across the country. They’re all having the same thing happen.”

Casey also said that safety is a concern when it comes to the zoo.

“We want people to be careful and not go into areas that put them in danger or put the animals in danger,” Casey said. “We’re worried about people visiting the zoo after hours. We know that this is happening because we have had reports of people scaling the fence and then posting about it on Facebook.”

Despite the few trespassers, Casey said the majority of Pokémon players have been great.

“Honestly, most people have been fantastic,” Casey said. “There are a few places (around the country) where the Pokémon are in cages or enclosures. Luckily, all of our PokéStops are in public areas. Our attitude is, ‘Let’s just have fun with it and do it the right way.'”

According to Beth Bohn, K-State Division of Communications and Marketing editor, and K-State Police, there have been no recorded incidents involving the game on campus.

“I haven’t heard about people getting in trouble,” Bohn said.

Players across Kansas are receiving notices to not play the app and drive. On Monday, Ben Gardner, Kansas Highway Patrol public resource officer, tweeted about the Pokémon app.

Droge said while he enjoyed the positive aspects of the game, he did not think it would be so popular as to require safety tips.

“I never thought I’d ever get to talk about Pokémon on the job,” he said.