JONESBORO, Ark. – Martha Gray Lewis just wanted to visit her late mother’s gravesite but she couldn’t reach it because of all the Pokémon GO players.
Since the worldwide phenomenon of a mobile game exploded onto the scene, players from across the globe and in NEA have been traveling to all sorts of sites and landmarks. However, because of the data incorporated into the game, many of those landmarks are in cemeteries like Jonesboro Memorial Park, where Lewis’ mother was laid to rest after passing in March.
Lewis just wanted to visit her mom’s place of rest Tuesday when an unfortunate incident unfolded.
“People were lined up in cars at the cemetery,” Lewis said. “We just drove on and left. It was creepy with that many cars and no one visiting a site. They were playing on there phones. We were in a large truck so I could see what they were doing.”
Lewis has been waiting for her mother’s monument to be placed, so she has been visiting the cemetery a lot more lately. However, the new game has brought out players in droves to battle at gyms, often placed at inconvenient locations like cemeteries. The unusual decision to allow so much of the game to take place in sensitive locations is one Lewis said the makers should have thought about.
“They should have researched before launching the game,” Lewis said. “These gamers won’t leave when asked. I find that very troubling. I went to the cemetery again one evening last week and there were several cars creeping around then also.”
Lewis worries some of the more juvenile players might become angry when asked to leave, possibly seeking retribution on headstones or items at gravesites. It isn’t an unfounded worry, either.
A recent sign put up at the cemetery where she described her incident asked players not to play the game inside of the location. Within a short time, the sign was stolen.
However, there is cause for relief.
Because of a new update to the game released in the past week, Jonesboro Memorial Park was able to have itself removed from the game and as of Monday, is no longer an unwilling participant in Nintendo and Niantic’s game. Cemeteries or businesses may now request to be removed from the mobile app.
It isn’t the only problem the new update addressed, specifically. Now, the game asks players not to play the game and drive – a warning Jonesboro Police Department is echoing. JPD’s information officer, Paul Holmes, shared several go-to tips for players of the game to be mindful of.
“This may seem obvious, but, do not play Pokémon GO while driving,” Holmes said. “Distracted driving results in at least 3,000 deaths per year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”
Holmes also said suspicious locations, especially at night, could be a dangerous place to try to find a Pikachu.
“To avoid potentially dangerous situations, make sure that people can see you if you’re playing at night, and be aware of strangers,” Holmes said. “JPD took a report (last) week where a victim reported her purse stolen from her vehicle while she was sitting in a parking lot, distracted playing the game.”
The incident happened Wednesday at The Links Apartments in Jonesboro, according to an incident report. A female victim said she was driving around the complex playing the game on her phone when she stopped and parked for a few seconds to focus on the game. When she did, a short, black male who was wearing a stocking cap opened her passenger side door and grabbed her purse out of the seat.
She was looking for Pokémon while he was looking for a victim.
“Remember that Pokémon characters disappear and move to different locations in the game,” Holmes said. “If a character is hiding in an unsafe or inappropriate location, you can wait for it to move to more suitable hunting ground.”
And you may avoid becoming the hunted, too.