Law Enforcement Reminds Pokémon Go Players 'It's Only a Game,' as Stories Spread of Related Crimes
"Get your head out of your phone. It's only a game," Encinitas Fire Department Battalion Chief Robbie Ford tells PEOPLE
Earlier this week Missouri police warned players that they believed a string of armed robberies were the work of a group of suspects using the monstrously popular mobile “augmented reality” app to target people in isolated areas.
Auburn, Alabama, police confirmed a similar case Wednesday: They said in a news release that a victim was assaulted and robbed after following his game to a closed building at 3 a.m. Four suspects were later arrested, police said.
And on Thursday, according to the Associated Press, two people were arrested in Toledo, Ohio, after police say they were seen climbing a fence at the local zoo’s tiger enclosure in order to get to Pokémon in the game.
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“This is the first time I can recall in my 20-year career that a game has created this kind of impact on law enforcement,” Toledo Police Department Lt. Joe Herrnan tells PEOPLE.
On top of the reported sunburns, stumbles and car crashes related to distracted Poké-hunting, authorities tell PEOPLE two men playing the game in California on Wednesday walked onto the beachy cliffs (a municipal code infraction) before they fell dozens of feet down. Both were hospitalized.
Of course, there have also been several Internet hoaxes about similar-sounding stories, with the details ramped up, all of which have been disproved by Snopes. These fake-outs include reports of trespassing players shot and killed by homeowners and of brothers killing brothers.
The lesson here?
“Get your head out of your phone,” Encinitas Fire Department Battalion Chief Robbie Ford tells PEOPLE. “It’s only a game.”
Pokémon Go players have also been fighting crimes – or at least one, Fullerton, California, police said. Two former Marines who were playing the game Tuesday morning helped catch a man in the area suspected of attempted murder, after he began bothering a woman and her kids, police said.
Seth Ortega, one of two Marine veterans involved, told PEOPLE, “It was like, ‘Hey our day went from catching Pokémon Go to catching a bad guy.’ ”
• With reporting by HARRIET SOKMENSUER