Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pokemon Go Safety

Pokemon Go has brought millions of people out from their living rooms and into the great outdoors in the past week. I haven’t seen a social force as strong as this game in a long time. The number of bikers, dog walkers, pedestrians has increased dramatically and I think there are some safety points to put out there.

As a fellow player, I’m happy to see people walking in parks, getting together with friends to play. As a police officer, I see a concerning trend that permeates all players to some degree: a lack of situational awareness.

By now, you’ve probably read articles about how PG players were targeted by robbers in St. Louis and the number of drivers stopping in roadways or involved in accidents while trying to catch a pokemon. It’s so easy to say, “Oh, but I don’t play when I’m driving” or “I pay attention to where I’m walking.” That’s great, and I believe that a large portion of players are doing so safely.

So tips for continued safe playing:

Look up!

Easy enough. Even when you’re walking in a park, don’t stare at your phone. Aside from looking like a total zombie, you aren’t aware of your surroundings. I’m not saying you’ll miss the potential mugger in an alley, but you don’t want to step off the path and roll your ankle.

This is probably the biggest concern for players (and non players). I’ve seen people walk into parked cars, into roadways, and pretty much anywhere you really don’t want to be. Don’t get hit by a car. Or trip and fall down a hill. I’m not looking forward to working on any vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

Don’t play while driving.

Kinda like texting, you don’t need that distraction no matter how good of a driver you are. Also consider the fact that if you are in a car collision and it’s discovered that you were playing on your phone, you may face criminal and civil lawsuits and penalties.

Also, don’t be the jerk that’s driving 10mph up the street trying to get steps or hit up a Pokestop. You are impeding traffic for everyone else who is trying to get to work or pick up kids.

Pace yourself.

The whole point is to get out and go, but don’t overdo it. If you’ve been pretty sedentary up until now, you’ll find that it’s not hard to walk miles and miles but a few days of doing this will take its toll. Your feet will ache, especially if you’re not wearing good shoes, and so will your ankles and knees. Work yourself up to walking 10km, or take frequent breaks. No point giving yourself any plantar or joint issues.


I hadn’t thought about this until I watched someone fall over in a park from dehydration. I’m not sure where you are, but here it’s upper nineties and sunny every day. If you’re sensitive to heat, not used to outdoor activity, or just not drinking enough water, you may find yourself experiencing some medical complications. Drink water before and after each walk, and bring a water bottle too. The rule is: if you start to feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

Some signs of dehydration:
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Not sweating – this one is important. It’s hot out, you’re moving, but you’re not sweating or you’re only clammy? Drink water!
  • Dizziness
  • Exhaustion or sleepiness
Also, be aware of heat stroke which has similar symptoms.

If you begin to feel any of these symptoms, make sure you find shade or shelter and drink water. Gatorade/Powerade are also good, but avoid sodas and juices.

Safety in numbers.

I’ve seen a lot of Facebook groups where people set meet up times at local parks and anyone with free time can join. If you don’t have any available friends to walk with, go find some kindred spirits to meet. Watch out for each other, make friends, and share your awesome catches.

Be wary of going out alone, especially at night. While you’re buried in the glow of your phone, anyone who wants to get a jump on you knows exactly where you are. Even bringing your Chihuahua on the walk is better than hoofing it alone.

Pick your hunting grounds wisely. 

Be considerate and smart when choosing which Pokestops tovisit, or which buildings to hunt near. While many business and organizations have shown public support for PG players, others see the hordes of people as an obstruction to business or school. If you’re asked to leave, leave. Don’t give them a reason to dislike players even more by arguing or loitering.

Law enforcement reaction.

Obviously law enforcement all over the nation are aware of the game. Some love it and play (like me!) and others see it as a nuisance and increase in potential crime. Either way, be courteous. Don’t go hanging around inside or outside police stations, around patrol vehicles, etc. unless you’re invited. There’s already enough concern over officer safety, you don’t want to put yourself in a bad situation for misunderstanding.

There’s been an increase in calls for suspicious person and vehicles and a lot of it is PG players hitting up Pokestops at night, or wandering into a nearby schoolyard while chasing a Pikachu. If an officer comes to check on you, don’t take it personally. We’re just doing our job.

That being said, lots of officers play on and off duty. You might find that the officer coming to see why you’re crawling through bushes in the dark will pull out their phone when you tell them there’s a Snorlax in the area!

Play safe, and if you see me out and about, feel free to say hello!