According to a crime alert released by the Berkeley Police Department on Wednesday, two completed robberies and one attempted robbery occurred in the city over the last month involving victims who were distracted by the popular Pokémon Go smartphone game.
BPD noted in the alert that the robberies were part of a “growing crime trend” related to Pokémon Go, and in light of this trend, the department urged residents to conceal their phones in their pockets while traveling and to walk in groups when playing the game at night. Just this week, a 20-year-old man was shot and killed in a San Francisco park while playing Pokémon Go, USA Today reported.
Campus junior Faizan Motiwala — who downloaded the game the day it was released — said he believes it poses potential safety risks in that it makes users less vigilant of their surroundings and encourages dangerous nighttime walking practices.
“After the first couple nights when my friends and I were playing it, we realized that we hadn’t looked up from our phones in a really long time,” Motiwala said. “You feel like you’re safe walking in a group, but at night you never know.”
Motiwala added that the massive popularity of Pokémon Go also presents a problem because users assume, even late at night, that everyone around them is playing the game as well, making them less wary of those who may be seeking to do them harm. He noted that in light of the recent string of robberies, he has become more careful and often keeps his phone in his pocket.
The first of these robberies, which took place on the night of July 12, involved a woman who was walking on the 2300 block of Dana Street while playing the game. The woman cut through a parking lot just after finishing playing when she noticed that she was being followed by two suspects — described as young, black, male adults with slender builds wearing dark hooded sweatshirts — who knocked her to the ground, robbed her and then fled the scene into a waiting SUV.
The second robbery occurred in the area of Parker Street and Warring Street on the afternoon of July 31. In that robbery, the suspect — described as a 16-year-old black, male juvenile — jumped out of a waiting vehicle, punched the victim who was playing the game and took the victim’s phone.
The suspect from that crime ran to a waiting car and fled the scene but was stopped by police a few miles away. Two arrests were then made, the alert said.
During the most recent Pokémon Go-related incident — in Civic Center Park on Monday afternoon — the intended victim was playing the game when a roughly 16-year-old black male in a grey hooded sweatshirt attempted to grab his phone. The victim managed to retain his phone, and the suspect fled eastbound on Allston Way.
Anyone with information regarding these crimes is encouraged to contact BPD’s robbery detail at 510-981-5900.