‘Pokemon Go’ prompts trespassing concerns

GREENFIELD — A smartphone game touted for getting its players outside and active has sparked trespassing and safety concerns among local authorities.

“Pokemon Go,” which uses a cellphone’s camera to incorporate real places into the game’s landscape, sends users to prominent local landmarks — called Pokestops in the game — to gather virtual supplies or track the animated Pokemon characters.

Among them is Park Cemetery in Greenfield, where about a dozen gravesites — some dating back to the 1800s — are designated by game designers as Pokestops, prompting concern about players who might be tempted to visit at all hours of the day and night.

Though the cemetery is public property, the burial plots are privately owned by families, and any damage done to the sites could result in criminal charges, said street and cemetery superintendent Tyler Rankins.

Families visit the cemetery to mourn or pay tribute to deceased loved ones. They’re likely not going to be pleased to encounter gamers running around and having fun there, Rankins said.

“The cemetery is a place of peace, not a place for games,” he said.

The cemetery’s gates close to the public at 9 p.m., so players found there after closing time could be charged with trespassing, he added. Police already had increased security in the area recently because of thefts from gravesites.

“I’d urge (players) to avoid the cemetery altogether, but if they’re going to be in there, be respectful,” Rankins said.

The app also has sparked safety concerns across the country.

Police have heard reports that criminals have used the app to lure players to private areas to rob or intimidate them, Fortville Police Department Lt. Patrick Bratton said. Other reports say car accidents have been caused by drivers distracted by the game while they’re behind the wheel.

Though Bratton hasn’t heard of any local problems caused by the game, its popularity has sparked conversation among law enforcement about how best to advise residents of the potential dangers, he said.

His recommendations? Use caution when playing the game, pay attention to your surroundings and don’t wander onto private property.

For the most part, Pokestops are historic or cultural landmarks that already see heavy foot traffic. Others include local businesses, such as Hometown Comics on State Street in Greenfield, which has welcomed new visitors.

It’s fitting the business has been designated by game designers as a Pokestop, as Pokemon card game tournaments have been hosted there for years, said Adrianna Hull, whose family owns the store.

The family’s comic book store has seen more traffic near the store since the game went live. People often drive up in their cars, flip on the game and collect the digital items they need before heading on their way, she said, usually to another Pokestop.

But others come in the store, visit for a few minutes with the regulars and chat about the game, she said.

The app is creating a community, with players sharing tips, said Hull — the self-proclaimed Pokemon expert in her family.

Fifteen-year-old Nicholas Bradley, who’s been playing “Pokemon Go” since it launched last week, stayed up until 2 a.m. Monday catching the cartoon monsters around downtown Greenfield, he said.

The app quickly became addicting, leading him to play around the clock, Nicholas said.

Since he doesn’t have a driver’s license, he’s had to skateboard around the city to find Pokemon.

On Monday afternoon, he skateboarded from his home near U.S. 40 and Meridian Road to the courthouse on State Road 9 to hunt some of the creatures.

While the summertime might normally find him inside, playing a video game, “Pokemon Go” has drawn him outdoors and forced him to be active to keep up.

“That’s gotta be a good thing,” he said.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.