The crimes weren’t connected, but they fit the same pattern: Victims walking the sidewalks after midnight in search of a virtual cartoon creature were robbed.
In the last month, police have responded to four robberies of people who were playing the popular Pokemon Go game on their phones, Arlington police spokesman Steven Bartolotta said Thursday. In a fifth incident, a suspect pointed a gun at a teenage girl but drove away before stealing anything.
“While we don’t believe the game is the underlying nexus on becoming victimized,” Bartolotta said, “in each of our cases, our victims were unaware of their surroundings playing the game in secluded areas after midnight.”
Police don’t believe the incidents are related, because descriptions of the suspects varied, he said.
Fort Worth police haven’t heard of any crime-related incidents related to the game, which is played on a cellphone app that allows users to find and capture virtual Pokemon “species” in real-life locations. The strategy for players is to roam around — often in neighborhoods and parks — until a Pokemon creature, like a Charmander or a Pikachu, pops up on their phone.
Sometimes that leads players to less-than-safe locations, Bartolotta said.
Dallas police are investigating two robberies of Pokemon Go players, said Sr. Cpl. Debra Webb, a department spokesman.
Those robberies happened near White Rock Lake on July 22 and Aug. 2. Suspects in both incidents pointed a gun at victims and stole their cellphones, Webb said Thursday.
Stealing phones and a hoverboard
The first robbery in Arlington happened July 16, when a man was robbed of his phone and hoverboard at a park near Nichols Junior High School in north Arlington. Two male suspects indicated they had a gun, but never showed it, Bartolotta said.
At about midnight on July 25, a woman was assaulted by two other women while she was playing the game on a sidewalk in the 2000 block of California Lane.
On July 26, a man had a gun put to his head while he was playing the game and walking to a gas station on East Pioneer Parkway. The suspect took the man’s iPhone.
The lone daytime incident happened July 28 in the 1500 block of Briar Path Lane. Two teenage brothers were playing the game in their neighborhood when two teens drove by, grabbed one brother’s phone and drove off.
The Arlington and Dallas robberies are similar to other Pokemon Go-related incidents around the country.
The game has led to other problems, too. In Baltimore last month, a distracted driver struck a police patrol car while the playing the game.
Also last month, a North Texas teen was bitten by a snake and hospitalized while playing the game at a Flower Mound park.