At 2am on Sunday morning, officers from the O'Fallon police department in Missouri responded to a report of an armed robbery at a shopping center. When they arrived the victims were unharmed, but had been robbed of a number of personal items at gunpoint by four individuals in a black BMW. Later that evening officers apprehended the four suspects, who divulged how they were able to lure their victims to an empty parking lot: Pokémon Go.
Released last week by Niantic, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game that is essentially just a Pokémon themed geocaching app. Players navigate their avatar in the game by walking around in the real world hunting for Pokémon and battling other players at Pokémon Gyms. When players run low on Pokéballs or other in-game items, they need to head to a designated Pokéstop to restock—but if they're not careful at these Pokéstops, they might fall victim to an IRL Team Rocket (read: four dudes with a gun).
According to Sergeant Bill Stringer of the O'Fallon Police Department, this is what happened to 11 people in the St. Louis and St. Charles counties in Missouri since Friday. Based on statements made by the apprehended suspects, the robbers used Pokémon Go to lure players to secluded areas where they would then rob the victims of their personal belongings. All of the Missouri victims were between 16 and 18 years old.
Although the exact method used by robbers isn't entirely clear, it appears as though they would create a beacon at the Pokéstop which would then attract more Pokémon to the beacon. And as most of us have realized by now, where there are Pokémon, there will be gaggles of teens trying to catch them in exchange for digital candy. It was this insatiable desire to "catch 'em all" that led 11 teens right into an armed robbery.
"As far as we can tell you can put a Pokébeacon or something on [the app] and it attracts Pokémans [sic] and alerts other players to your location," Stringer told Motherboard. "It's a great app for getting people off the couch, but it can be used for nefarious reasons, also."
Although there haven't been any other Pokémon related armed robberies reported outside of Missouri, the app has led to some bizarre encounters in other parts of the world, such as the teen who found a dead body on her quest for Pokémon or the unlucky guy whose house was labeled as a Pokémon Gym.
So remember kids, stay vigilant because no Pokémon is worth dying for—unless it's Mewtwo.