Small Town Police Department Goes Viral with Pokémon Go Warning

The July 10 advisory has now been shared more than 3,800 times, with hundreds of comments

Photo: AP Photo/Richard Vogel

A small-town police department is getting a huge wave of attention from its newfound Facebook fame, thanks to a viral post warning residents to please not “lurk” around officers while playing Pokémon Go.

“If you feel the need to run around playing Pokemon Go this summer, that’s cool. Just be smart about it,” the Duvall, Washington, police wrote on July 10, of the “augmented reality” mobile app which encourages people to explore outdoors to catch the creatures.

“One way of NOT playing smart is to go creeping around the Duvall PD. We have had some people playing the game behind the PD, in the dark, popping out of bushes, etc. This is high on our list of things that are not cool right now,” the department wrote, adding:

“DO NOT LURK AROUND THE PD AT ANY HOUR WHILE YOU ARE PLAYING POKEMON GO – it makes an unsafe situation for you and our Officers. If you feel the need to use the PD as part of your game, just use common sense: Come on in to the lobby during [business] hours and say hi and let someone behind the counter or an officer know you are looking for an imaginary critter thing and make sure that your presence is well-known.”

The post continues, “An Officer should not be placed in a position where people are hiding in the dark when he needs to get to his patrol car a few feet away.”

The advisory has now been shared more than 3,800 times, with hundreds of comments.

Duvall police Sgt. Lori Batiot, who runs the department’s Facebook and who wrote the post, tells PEOPLE she was addressing a real problem.

Others in the department had reached out to her describing people doing just what the post warns against. Their department is surrounded by thick woods and wetlands, she says, and people were coming at all hours, thanks to the game’s incentive to catch Pokémon sun up or sun down.

“This was going on night and day,” she says.

Batiot says that after she learned about the issue, she spent a brief time studying up on the game before knocking out the post. It gained traction quickly – aided by Batiot’s active participation in the comments, on behalf of the Duvall police, writing in a regular-person voice that was half amused and half sensible.

As she told one user, about players who felt they really had to get inside the building, “I guess the player will just have to sit outside and wait until the Pikachu makes Bond.”

In fact, the top comment on the thread is still hers: “When I started in this profession never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that there would come a day when I would have to ask the public not to chase imaginary creatures behind the station at night.”

As one user wrote, “Reading this thread is almost as fun as playing the game, and sort of makes me want to move to Duvall.”

The post seemed to work, too, Batiot said later on Facebook. She tells PEOPLE that sometimes people need a little reminder about what’s important, when it comes down to your Pokémon or your community.

Duvall is hardly alone: Since Pokémon Go’s release and subsequent immense popularity, there have been reports nationwide of distracted players getting bitten by snakes, falling off cliffs – and even being robbed.

“I think some people really do lose sight of, as fun as this is and as awesome as it is a game to play, it’s not real and humans are,” Batiot says. She compared it to other previous giant fads, such as all of the people who started riding hoverboards (and all the people who got hurt riding hoverboards).

Batiot says she doesn’t hold it against them, though, and thinks the game itself is “a blast.” She got into it thanks to her daughter, who previously got her into Farmville.

“Use common sense,” Batiot advises players. “And even if you don’t have common sense, default to civility.”

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