DOWNEY – If you look out your window tonight and see a person or two hanging out close-by, there’s a good chance you have a Pikachu on your front lawn.
Last Wednesday, software development company Niantic Labs released Pokemon Go, a new gaming app that uses a mobile device’s camera and GPS to virtually insert popular creatures called Pokemon into the world for players to “catch,” battle and collect.
The app also encourages players to get up and travel to different places, as Pokemon types vary from location to location. For example, players at a beach might find water type Pokemon, while those at a park might encounter bug types.
The app shot to the top of app stores almost instantly after being released, and despite having over one million downloads within its first few days of availability, continues to grow.
Many are praising the app for its social and physical elements. Social circles, couples, and even families can be spotted out and about searching for the virtual monsters.
According to 59-year-old Downey resident Robert McFall, who was at Furman Park playing the game alongside his son, the game has encouraged activity that some individuals may not have participated in without the game.
“We wouldn’t have been out walking the park tonight if we weren’t looking for Pokemon,” said McFall, chuckling. “Gotta catch them all!”
Despite the immense popularity of the app, there are those who are worried about the potential harm it could cause to a player.
As a precaution, Downey Police Department shared a KTLA article about the new craze via social media, advising residents who are participating to educate themselves about the potential dangers of playing the game.
According to the article, police agencies are warning against using the app while driving, and wandering out alone during the late hours of the night. Once extreme case even noted that four teens were accused of using the app to target their victims of multiple armed robberies.
The article also claims that police nationwide have already located a number of people traveling to businesses, churches, and government buildings when they are closed to look for the virtual creatures.
This phenomenon was witnessed first-hand by a Downey Patriot reporter, as a crowd massed in front of Downey City Hall and Library anywhere as late as midnight. According to many who were amongst the crowd, such gatherings and late night ventures have been happening since the game first became available.
“Since it dropped, a lot of people have been going to anywhere Pokestops are available, get free stuff, catch pokemon…,” said 18-year-old Andres Reyes Martinez, one of the many individuals who flocked to City Hall.
Downtown Downey in general is a hotbed of Pokemon activity, however the area surrounding City Hall, the Library, and the police station include three of the coveted “Pokestops” all within extreme proximity to each other, making it extremely easy for players to activate each and reap the rewards. Downey City Library is also marked in-game as a “gym,” where players who are a part of one of the three in-game teams can battle for supremacy.
Apollo Park and Furman Park were also mentioned as popular Downey spots for the game.
DPD Lt. Mark McDaniel said that to his knowledge there have been no incidents in Downey surrounding the app so far, and that the mass gathering just outside the Police Department was within the law.
However, he discouraged players from going into neighborhoods they may not know.
“What people need to realize is that they need to be careful going out late at night with their phones out to areas they’re not familiar with…” said McDaniel. “…people can gather in public places as long as they abide by the laws and such…I’m not that familiar with the game of actually where it takes you, but I would discourage folks from going to private homes, hanging out at places or trespassing...I would stay away from those areas where you have no business being lawfully. I wouldn’t recommend that.”
For those who may be interested, players report that Downey has bountiful amounts of rattata, pidgey, and even a handful of the face of the franchise, Pikachu.