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Police: Criminals used Pokémon Go to lure Auburn student into violent robbery

Samford Hall at Auburn University (Photo: Flickr user sunsurfr)
Samford Hall at Auburn University (Photo: Flickr user sunsurfr)

AUBURN, Ala. — An Auburn student was reportedly robbed Wednesday afternoon by a group of four violent criminals who police believe used features of the popular Pokémon Go game to lure their victim into a trap.

Pokémon Go is an “augmented reality” game that inserts monsters — Pokémon — into the “real world” as seen through a player’s smartphone camera. In short, the player’s job is to find and capture as many Pokémon as possible. Users walk around their neighborhoods, parks, communities, campuses, and just about anywhere else you can imagine searching for Pokémon.

The game has been credited with getting users more active and even helping them combat depression, but it has also been criticized for distracting drivers and causing general mayhem. A cemetery in Alabama, for example, banned the game because players were walking through playing it during funerals.

The game also creates “Pokéstops and Pokégyms” that are real-world meet-up locations for players. Criminals have reportedly used this feature to lure people out of their homes to rob them while their gone, or to ambush them while they’re distracted.

According to an email sent out by Auburn University Public Safety & Security, the Auburn Police responded to one such incident this week.

The email can be found below:

Auburn University Campus Community,

As many of you are aware, the game Pokémon Go has become very popular over the past week. The game gets people outside, walking, and interacting with each other in a fun environment. However, it also poses some risks.

At about 3:00 a.m. today, Auburn Police responded to a report of a robbery near the Jule Collins Smith Museum. The robbery victim notified police immediately and the four robbery suspects were quickly apprehended. The victim did sustain minor injuries but was treated at East Alabama Medical Center and released. The preliminary police investigation indicates that the robbery suspects were using the Pokémon Go game to target the suspect.

For your safety, if you are playing Pokémon Go, please remember the following:

• Pokéstops and Pokégyms are focal points that attract more users. Criminals may take advantage of this. Make sure to look up, look around, and be aware of who and what is around you. It’s best to visit Pokéstops and Pokégyms during the day, with a friend or in a group.

• Avoid areas that are isolated, especially if you are alone.

• Some Pokémon will randomly appear in dangerous locations, such as roads, bodies of water, or inside construction sites. Realize when one is out of reach and don’t risk your safety to retrieve it!

• Some Pokémon appear on private property. Do not trespass to catch Pokémon.

• When looking for Pokémon, you may become overly focused on your phone screen and become oblivious to your surroundings. This goes back to being aware of your surroundings. Look out for obstacles, tripping hazards, and other dangerous situations.

• Avoid parking lots, roadways and busy intersections. Try to stay on sidewalks and in designated crosswalks as much as possible. It is your responsibility to make yourself visible to vehicles, bicyclists, and other pedestrians. Always follow traffic safety rules.

• You should never catch Pokémon (or do other screen-intensive things on your phone) while operating a motor vehicle, bicycle, or skateboard. It creates a hazard for you, other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

• If using earbuds, leave one ear open so you can hear what is happening around you.

• Keep your information secure! Make sure to check your Pokémon Go security settings so you know what kind of information the app collects.

Have fun, but remember to be safe!

Auburn University Public Safety & Security

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