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Safety first, then Pokémon
July 25, 2016

By Brianna Mathias
Editorial Intern

MEEKER COUNTY, WRIGHT COUNTY, MCLEOD COUNTY, CARVER COUNTY, MN – Nintendo’s Pokémon Go dropped in the App Store Wednesday, July 6. Immediately, it picked up popularity around the country – including local communities.

This game makes players physically move around in order to capture animated creatures in “Pokéballs.”

“It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve gone outside a lot more,” said Donavon Decker of Howard Lake. “It’s also a way to meet new people.”

Some may believe this game to be a great motivator for people to get exercise, but others have seen some safety issues arise when players become unaware of their surroundings.

The Winsted Police Department, for example, has recently observed several people playing Pokémon Go and nearly walking into traffic, and trespassing on private property.

“The police department would like to remind people who are playing these games that they cannot go onto private property without permission, and if they do so, they may be charged with a crime,” Police Chief Justin Heldt noted. “Please pay attention while walking up to – and across – roadways, to avoid being struck by a vehicle.”

Decker and his friends heed this advice, and said they are careful to stay off private property and to play safely.

“We always look both ways before crossing the street,” Decker said.

Though some police stations have been facing certain issues due to the game, other offices haven’t received any report related to Pokémon Go.

“Someone told us there’s something that can be picked up close to city hall, so we’ve seen some of them playing it,” Howard Lake Police chief David Thompson said. “But we haven’t had any calls in about it yet.”

The thing Thompson was referring to is a Pokéstop, a place where players can collect items such as Pokéballs, potions, lures, and eggs.

Thompson said he would warn all those playing the game to stay alert.

“Get your phone out of your face when you’re crossing the street,” Thompson said.

The loading screen of the game warns players to be aware of their surroundings. However, some players have not heeded this advice.

“We were dealing with people running around town during the lock down in Watkins playing the game and not paying attention to potential hazards,” Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze said.

There were issues during the July 11 tornado, as well as after, according to Cruze.

“During the cleanup, people weren’t paying attention to where they were going,” Cruze said. “Make sure you know your surroundings. We had people just walking down the street, not paying any attention to other people in Watkins. Walking into people is disrupting.”

Cruze reminds players to just remain careful and be aware.

Crossing the street while playing the game is one potential danger; however, driving and playing Pokémon is another issue that Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty said is very unsafe.

“There hasn’t been anything like that yet, but I will tell people that you can’t stare at your phones all day long,” Hagerty said. “You just have to have common sense. Common sense while driving, common sense when crossing the road, and you need to respect people’s privacy and property.”

Lester Prairie has had no issues with the game to date, but police chief Robert Carlson stressed that the game isn’t going to be an excuse for when people get into trouble.

“We would let them know they are trespassing on private property; we’re going to handle it just like any other situation,” Carlson said. “It is still a crime.”

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