Pokemon Go might be used by sex offenders, New York State Senators say
The wildly popular game Pokemon Go is unintentionally luring its young players to some real-life monsters, fears a senator in New York. In other words, Pokemon Go could inadvertently give sexual predators easy access to new prey.
New York State Senators, Jeffrey Klein, a Democrat who represents part of the Bronx and Westchester County, and Diane Savino, a Staten Island Democrat are calling for new legislation to keep kids safe from augmented reality games, including Pokemon Go. Klein wants to pass a bill that would forbid registered sex offenders from playing Pokemon Go and trying to lure young players to their houses with the temptation of capturing rare Pokemon. Sivano has joined Klein in trying to introduce the bill and get it passed.
A report dubbed “Protecting our Children: How Pokemon Go and Augmented Reality Games Expose Children to Sex Offenders” disclosed that the cute cartoon creatures are exploding in front of the homes of registered sex offenders across the city.
“With the lures, we have not found that anyone did that with the intention of luring the child, but it’s something that could happen,” said Klein. “Unfortunately, Pokemon Go has opened up a door to sexual predators.”
The investigation found that 73 out of the 100 sex offenders addresses were within a half block of a Pokemon Go related item. Investigators visited the homes of 100 Level 2 and 3 sex offenders who committed “heinous” crimes against children or who were found guilty of possessing child pornography, and found Pokemon characters came up directly in front 57 percent of the time.
The sex offenders are either on parole or probation and are not allowed within 1,000 feet of a school.
“It freaks me out because our kids, you see them walking around with their heads down, and they don’t know where they’re going… they’re just following Pokemon,” said Hector Pagan, father of three avid Pokemon Go players. “I would be very concerned if my child was playing this game and happens to go by a predators house… it freaks me out,” said Pagan.
The mobile game, which uses a smartphone’s camera and GPS functions to virtually populate real-world locations with the digital monsters, also placed the Pokestops or gyms within a half-block of convicted paedophiles’ residences.
“57 percent of the time we are out in front of a dangerous sex offender’s residence, a Pokemon character appeared,” Klein said.
Players of the game can also use a “lure” at a PokeStop to attract Pokemon characters to a particular location, which the senators’ fear may be used by sexual predators to attract children to a certain area.
“A sexual predator who downloads this game holds a guide in their hands — a virtual road map to hunt down their prey,” said Klein.
However, the study did not find the offenders were the ones placing Pokemon Go elements near their homes.
“The sites are done randomly by the company,” Klein said. “We want the company to now police those sites, to make sure they did not choose a site that’s near a sexual predator’s home.”
Klein and Savino have vowed to introduce legislation forcing so-called “augmented reality” gamemakers to remove characters from areas near offenders, and also make it illegal for paedophiles to play the games.
“While children believe they are out to catch a Pokemon, what might really be lurking could be a predator instead of a Pikachu,” Klein said, referring to a type of Pokemon creature. “We want our children to have safe fun, but it makes no sense at all to give dangerous sexual predators a virtual road map to where our children congregate.”
Savino said, “The one thing we know about sexual predators is they gravitate towards opportunities that give them access to their victims. So they are going to use this in a way to lure their victims to them.”
Their bill would ban sex offenders from playing augmented reality games like Pokemon Go, and prohibit any game features from appearing within 100 feet of the residences of sex offenders.
Reports of the game taking players to the homes of sexual offenders in other states have already been doing the rounds, including California.
The maker of Pokemon GO, Niantic Labs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.