Police: Be aware of your surroundings while playing Pokémon Go

- Some police departments around the D.C. region are warning about the wildly popular new smartphone game Pokémon Go.

If you spot young people roaming the streets mesmerized by their screens, they could very well be among the millions playing the game after it launched in the United States last week.

It is like a virtual scavenger hunt where users search in the real world to collect various Pokémon. The app presents a GPS map of a player’s location, and makes it so Pokémon characters seem to exist in the real world – for example, sitting on the sidewalk or in a body of water.

But it has not been all fun for gamers. A player in Wyoming stumbled upon a dead body while on the hunt. In Missouri, robbers used a feature in the game that attracts other players to lure victims. In Massachusetts, the app mistakenly featured a man’s home as a convergence site for players.

“When you are out and about, you just have to be aware of your surroundings,” said Montgomery County Police Officer Rick Goodale. “We are finding people who are playing this game are just constantly looking down at their phone and not paying any bit of attention where they are. And sometimes this app may take you in the middle of the road or onto somebody else’s private property. You just have to be aware of where you are and what you are doing.”

He said players need to use common sense and be careful.

“If you are so focused on the phone, you might not realize you are about to walk into traffic,” he said.

Goodale said he first learned about the game from his teenage daughter over the weekend.

“We were driving around and she would routinely tell me to stop at certain places to try and catch whatever Pokémon may have been in the area and I had no idea what she was talking about,” Goodale said.

There are various landmarks for players across the nation and the White House is one of them. On Monday, FOX 5 saw people alone and in groups playing the game on Pennsylvania Avenue – all of them millennials.

“It just brings me back to my childhood,” said Matt Ashmore. “It’s funny. I go out at night, maybe eight or nine o’clock, and you just see tons of people, like young people my age, going to play the game.”

The National Mall even put out a notice about the game encouraging play, but reminding people to be respectful of fellow visitors and memorials.

“In fact, while you're visiting the National Mall keep an eye out for our soon to be announced ranger-led Pokemon hunts and join a park ranger to learn about the monuments and memorials while you collect your Pidgey!” it reads.

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