A new report has revealed that Pokémon Go has not yet implemented an algorithm to prevent mostly young players of the popular app from roaming into areas where there are registered sex offenders.
The discovery was initially made by a group of reporters from the Bay Area News Group, who decided to use the Megan’s Law sex offender public database to play the popular app near residences of registered offenders, and see just how close Pokémon Go players would get.
The results were alarming. Silicon Valley reports that during the survey, the reporters found that “the augmented reality game could lure players close to more than a dozen sex offenders’ residences.” For example, the reporters were led just a dozen feet away from the buzzer of a 61-year-old convicted child molester’s Alameda apartment complex; mere feet away from the front gate of a 45-year-old convicted rapist in San Jose; and less than 50 feet from the Concord residence of a 54-year-old child molester.
Although there have been no reports of sex offender arrests related to Pokémon Go in California, Silicon Valley reports that a 42-year-old registered sex offender was arrested in Indiana earlier this month after a probation officer saw him playing the app with a 16-year-old boy outside a courthouse PokéStop. The game could also reportedly put some sex offenders at risk of being sent back to prison for violating the terms of their probation or parole if they are discovered standing too close to youth.
Legal experts reportedly say the situation is prime for lawsuits should someone be assaulted while playing Pokémon Go, and game developer Niantic could be liable. Niantic CEO John Hanke recently told Mashable that over 5 million submissions for PokéStops that are currently used in the app were made based off 2½ years of people going to all the places where they thought they should be able to play Ingress,” a precursor to Pokémon Go.
Parents who are concerned about their children’s safety have taken a more hands-on approach. Such is the case with Adam Springer, of Walnut Creek, who told Silicon Valley that he escorted his 12-year-old son around Civic Park in order to watch him play the game.
“I think it’s the realities of society today. All of these things happen all over no matter what, no matter if you’re playing the game or not. It’s all about situational awareness.”
This month, three girls found a dead body in a San Diego park while playing the game. Days later, two men fell 50 feet down the side of a cliff in Encinitas, near San Diego, while playing the app. They were hospitalized with moderate injuries.