Lanark County OPP keeping eye on new smartphone game

Posted on: August 24, 2016

By Sam Cooley

You could say it’s been a good month for the Pokemon Go players chasing Pikachu through Lanark County.

No accidents, robberies or collisions have occurred as a result of the video game, according to OPP Constable David Bird. “Hopefully our community stays that way,” he said.

Pokemon Go is a smart-phone game where users chase down and capture digital critters in a semi-virtual reality which utilizes a phone’s GPS and camera systems. Released on July 16 in Canada, it has on occasion been the source of distraction for some of its users.

According to Bird, the game appears to have gained a bit of traction among the local population in towns throughout Lanark, where groups of players have been spotted gaming in public parks.

While he said the game might be getting some folks off the couch and into the outdoors, which is a good thing, Bird echoed a potential public safety concern shared by other police agencies across the country.

Amid reports of players jaywalking, running into traffic, crashing skateboards and trespassing, nobody in Lanark County has been issued a citation as a result of distractedly playing the game. At least not yet.

“I think anything like that would be dealt with (by) officers informally,” Bird said, indicating it has not been an issue.

“Everything we do comes back to public safety. You have to have care when you have anything fun. You can’t afford to let that screen be your view of reality.”

Under provincial legislation, if a Pokemon player is gaming while driving he or she could potentially face a $1,000 fine and three demerit points for distracted driving. But that isn’t stopping everyone.

Recently, two female drivers narrowly avoided colliding with one another while simultaneously playing Pokemon Go behind the wheel in an Innisfil, Ont. parking lot in late July, according to the Canadian Press.

And according to American media, unscrupulous users of the application have also reportedly lured Pokemon Go players into shadowy alleys before robbing unsuspecting gamers.

Pokemon Go seems to be showing no signs of slowing down in its popularity. In less than a month it has taken the world by storm with more than 75 million downloads and its creators are already planning a number of expansions to keep players interested.

At around the same time of the game’s release, Toronto City Council attempted to ban texting while walking on Toronto roadways. The province quashed the potential ban request but indicated a future ban could be instated if a bylaw was ever passed in that city.