Four teenagers in Missouri were arrested and charged after they were caught using the augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go to lure and then rob unsuspecting victims, according to police.
The game, which is set in the Pokémon universe, allows players to capture and battle Pokémon in their local area using GPS and a mobile camera. Pokémon are dotted around the area randomly, but luring “beacons” can also be set up to entice players to investigate.
The four teenagers, Brett Miller (17), Jamine Warner (18), Shane Backer (18), and an unnamed sixteen-year-old boy were all charged with first-degree robbery and armed criminal action after they were caught inside a vehicle along with a handgun.
“All of the elements of a robbery were all there, so that part was easy, but the more in-depth discussion that followed was like, ‘What?’” said Sgt. Phil Hardin of the O’Fallon Police Department. “You really can’t make this stuff up.”
“We just thought, ‘Maybe it’s pay day for a lot of people,’ but I didn’t get it,” added Hardin, stating that the local area was more busy than usual due to the new boosted popularity of Pokémon Go.
“People really need to watch what they’re doing and make sure their kids understand where this game could lead them,” he warned. “Our concern is that some of the way points in this game are in geographically more dangerous areas than others. Other people are using the machinations of all this to put people in danger.”
The four teenagers used the beacons along with their knowledge of local secluded areas which were popular with Pokémon Go players to catch victims in quiet places. The group managed to steal a wallet and a phone before being caught by police.
“We are aware that some incidents have occurred involving fans playing Pokémon GO. We encourage all people playing Pokémon GO to be aware of their surroundings and to play with friends when going to new or unfamiliar places,” advised The Pokémon Company International in an official statement on Sunday. “Please remember to be safe and alert at all times. We are humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response to Pokémon GO and greatly appreciate the support of our fans.”
Despite the crimes that have been committed using Pokémon Go since its US launch on July 7th, the game has also led to a dead body being discovered in Wyoming. When 19-year-old Shayla Wiggins hopped a fence to catch a Pokémon located on the other side, the Wyoming local claimed to have found something a bit more sinister.
“I was walking towards the bridge along the shore when I saw something in the water,” said Wiggins. “I had to take a second look and I realized it was a body… I was pretty scared and cried for a while”.
The game’s popularity has led to the game’s servers crashing numerous times. Despite currently being available in both the US, New Zealand, and Australia, Pokémon Go has yet to hit the UK, with the official release date remaining delayed until further notice.