How Pokemon Go Is Revolutionizing Crime

Pokemon Go hasn’t been all fun and games. The augmented reality game is based on an experience that requires players to walk and drive around real-world locations, finding Pokemon that will only show up on their phone if the player is in a specific place. It’s resulted in players trying to capture Pokemon at funerals, ruining historic locations because particular rare Pokemon are located there. The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. had to post flyers asking players to stop trying to capture Pokemon there.

A number of car accidents have been reported because of playing while driving, but most are relatively minor. The grand prize has to go to a Maryland player who crashed his SUV into a police car. A pair of Pokemon Go players in California managed to fall off the side of a cliff trying to capture Pokemon. They were both rescued and taken to a local trauma center.

Yet the game has its good points. Gamers walk around, find new places, patronize shops, and meet new friends who are also playing the game. They can bond over their shared experience of trying to capture Pokemon together, or of battling a gym. Two marines who were playing Pokemon Go even apprehended a murder suspect in Fullerton, CA, when they witnessed the suspect attempt to harass a young boy. A shelter has offered its animals to Pokemon Go players to walk as they play, and it’s resulted in additional adoptions (though the number has been exaggerated on a popular meme).

There are many common-sense approaches that are being taken with Pokemon Go. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the Department of Corrections in his state to ban sex offenders from playing the mobile game. Hopefully, other states follow suit.

Yet one couple in Arizona left their 2-year old at home to drive around and play Pokemon. The pair were arrested on child neglect charges. Still more players have been robbed, when players wander into an area alone and aren’t aware of their surroundings. Such robberies have resulted in victims beaten, stabbed, and held at gunpoint. Would these robberies have happened regardless of the players being engaged in Pokemon Go? These things are hard to say. One man in California lashed out with a knife when he thought a Pokemon Go player was recording him.

These are all crimes of stupidity at best, and crimes of opportunity at worst. No, the real prize for ingenuity in using Pokemon Go to commit crime goes to four young men in Missouri. Pokemon Go allows you to place a beacon at a Pokestop, where Pokemon can be captured. The four teens placed a lure module to attract Pokemon. The Pokemon that were lured attracted other players to the location so that these players could capture the Pokemon. In turn, the four men who had placed the lure observed the locations and captured the players who showed up, successfully committing 10 to 11 armed robberies using this method to bait victims.

Will something like this become the norm? As augmented reality games become more popular, commodities that people want can be placed or lured specifically. Then, people ripe for the picking can be lured without suspicion.

In fact, developer Niantic has talked about how the game can enter into contracts with different companies. Say, a company like Starbucks could enter into a contract that sees Niantic place rare Pokemon at various Starbucks locations. Players who are lured by the Pokemon may stay for the coffee, or even have to buy something in order to play Pokemon Go there. After all, there’s more than one form of daylight robbery.


What do you think about the relationship between Pokemon Go and crime? Would you wander around a lonely section of town at 3 a.m. just to catch a Pikachu?




Gabriel Valdez
Gabriel Valdez
Gabriel is a movie critic who's been a campaign manager in Oregon, an investigative reporter in Texas, and a film producer in Massachusetts. His writing was named best North American criticism of 2014 by the Local Media Association. He's assembled a band of writers who focus on social issues in film. They have a home base.