Fun game, nightmare for cops ...Assistant Commissioner says 'Pokemon Go' raises safety concerns

July 22, 2016
A stuffed toy of Pikachu, a Pokemon character, is surrounded by children during a Pokemon festival in Tokyo on Monday. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Bishop Dr Gary Welsh
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Fun game, nightmare for cops

... Assistant Commissioner says 'Pokemon Go' raises safety concerns

The Pokemon GO craze is slowly spreading across Jamaica, and already, law enforcement officers have spotted various red flags, which they say could cause a nightmare in the country.

Pokemon GO is an augmented reality game based on the kids' Television Show, Pokemon. The show featured Ash Ketchum, a young boy who roamed his environment in search of mythical creatures called Pokemon.

Many children dreamt of joining Ash Ketchum on his wild missions. That dream finally became a reality earlier this month, when Niantic Inc. launched Pokemon GO, allowing players to use their smartphones to hunt for Pokemons in their own surroundings.

The Pokemons generally appear in areas known as Pokespots, which are usually real life monuments, artwork, public buildings, and popular chill spots.

This has resulted in persons roaming the streets at all hours of the day and night, glued to their phones, hunting the mythical creatures.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Gary Welsh, who is in charge of Community Safety and Security, said this Pokemon GO phenomenon can cause serious problems for the police.

"For the police it's going to be a nightmare. One of the things I'm seeing is that it's going to reduce the awareness of citizen's as they go out in public spaces as they are concentrating on the phones," he said.

criminal elements

He added that another concern is that of criminals using the game to lure players into traps.

"You must understand that criminals are opportunists, and there could be criminal elements who could disguise themselves within a group of players and then just pounce upon the unsuspecting citizens," Welsh explained.

He stressed that he is not calling for a ban on the game, but said, "Those who are going to be engaged in it must first consider the negative consequences."

But the lawman's concerns are not unwarranted, as earlier this month in O'Fallon, Missouri, four criminals used to app to lure players to an area where they were then robbed.

And, last week, three students were robbed at knifepoint in Manchester, England, while playing the game.

Despite the bad news coming out of other countries, Jamaican Pokemon GO enthusiast, Zane Francis, told THE WEEKEND STAR that he has gone roaming as far as the Blue Mountains for Pokemons, and he does not feel endangered.

"I've gone as far as Hollywell to be honest, because the gate and the gazebo up there are Pokestops. So my friends and I went up there one night just to see what we could catch. We went around 8 p.m. and I came down back about midnight," he said.

mythical creatures

Francis, however, noted that some persons he knows have gone to great lengths to capture the mythical creatures.

"People climbing over walls to go on property they shouldn't be on, like going into a cemetery to play. People have climbed walls and go into people's yard just to get into Pokestops," he said.

For the wife and husband duo, Shamar and Najah Nash, the game is a whole new phenomenon that they are happy to be part of.

"People are kinda making it into a social event. Chillitos, a popular spot that we normally go to is actually a Pokestop, and they had an event centred around that last Friday," Shamar shared.

Najah added that she was in awe when she realised that over 300 persons flocked the venue to play the game.

The couple explained that they take measures to ensure their safety, but they know of persons who have gone on risky missions.

"Quite a few people I know actually drive around in the middle of the night trying to catch the Pokemon. I had a friend who drove out to Port Royal in the night just to catch some Pokemon," Shamar said.

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