A group of suspected robbers allegedly used the smartphone game Pokemon Go to lure victims in the St. Louis area recently, prompting police to issue a warning about the wildly popular new app.
Authorities located four people suspected of committing multiple armed robberies in St. Louis and St. Charles counties after the latest armed robbery was reported about 2 a.m. Sunday, according to a Facebook post from the O’Fallon Police Department in Missouri.
They were taken into custody, KTLA sister station KTVI in St. Louis reported.
It is believed the victims were targeted through Pokemon Go, a type of augmented reality game where players find characters at various locations, police said. It is based on the popular Nintendo Game Boy games.
The app uses a phone’s GPS to alert players when they are close to a creature. When the user turns on the camera, the Pokemon appears overlaid on whatever the phone sees, and players can flick Pokeballs with their fingers to capture them.
“The way we believe it was used is you can add a beacon to a Pokestop to lure more players,” police said in the Facebook post. “Apparently they were using the app to locate ppl standing around in the middle of a parking lot or whatever other location they were in.”
Police said they will not release any information on the suspected robbers until warrants were issued in the case, which could come as soon as Sunday, according to the post.
O’Fallon police have used the incident to warn anyone who plays Pokemon Go, or uses similar apps, to exercise caution when alerting any strangers to their location.
The popular game has also prompted another warning from police in Australia.
In a Facebook post, the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services asked players not to go hunting inside the station, saying that they merely need to be close to the building to collect their goodies.
Some Pokemon players have also expressed concern about the game bringing them to dangerous places. The game includes a warning asking people to be aware of their surroundings, while Australian police asked players to look up from their cellphones when they cross the street.
Pokemon Go gained more nationwide attention this weekend when a 19-year-old woman in Wyoming located a man’s body while using the app.
It was released on Thursday and has already been downloaded more than a million times on Android and Apple devices.
The game is a cooperation between Niantic, Inc., Nintendo, and The Pokémon Company.
“For the first time, with this game, Pokemon are going to roam free in the real world,” John Hanke, CEO of Niantic said.
“Pokemon Go will allow players to capture Pokémon who inhabit parks, shopping areas, sidewalks, and the countryside in places all around the world,” Hanke added.