It's been just days since augmented reality game "Pokémon Go" began unleashing gamers on the streets, forcing unsuspecting city institutions and public agencies into refereeing with Pokémon "trainers" who are using public spaces as their playground.
Stories of players’ faux pas have trickled out across the country. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery have already made public pleas for players to refrain from catching Nidorans or Geodudes on their grounds. Police departments have issued warnings about the hazards of throwing Poké balls while driving.
But in Los Angeles, there’s at least one agency embracing the craze full-on. L.A. Metro launched a new Twitter account, @PokemonGoMetro, dedicated solely to Pokémon sightings across L.A. — and the best ways to find them using public transit.
“This game, because you cannot play while you are driving, is a great tie-in to our initiatives — which are walking, biking and taking transportation,” said Anna Chen, public information officer for L.A. Metro.
A few other institutions across L.A. have also used the allure of a rare Pokémon sighting to attract new visitors. The L.A. Zoo told the public on Twitter that you can spot a Nidoran among the giraffes and monkeys:
The Getty Center also boasted its wealth of resources for trainers looking to build up their inventory:
West Hollywood city officials also reminded local businesses that they can use the influx of pedestrians to their advantage:
But Chen said L.A. Metro hoped to use its new Twitter account remind city dwellers to stay safe while using the app.
“While we want you come out and walk and bike and experience this game, we also want to make sure: Don’t walk in traffic, don’t walk in tracks, definitely pay attention to your surroundings,” she said.
Other local agencies have had to disseminate warnings about safety, given reports of players using the app while driving, wandering into unsafe areas in the middle of the night or even using Poké Stops — designated locations for players to collect special items — to lure robbery victims.
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Office tweeted a reminder Monday for players to be aware of their surroundings:
The L.A. Sheriff’s Department also released an advisory Tuesday night offering tips for trainers to stay safe:
- Don’t play while driving. The last thing we need is a dead Pokémon.
- Stay vigilant as you play. Distraction can cause injuries, especially when you walk into traffic.
- Play in well-lit areas. As far as we know, there are no glow-in-the-dark Pokémon.
- If you suspect you are being followed, yell for help and use your phone to call 9-1-1.
- Gamers are strangers, too. Just because they like Pokémon does not mean they will be nice to you. Be cautious of being lured into a bad situation.
- Pokémon have homes too… just not yours. So if you are not invited, stay out of private property. We can guarantee you won’t find Pokémon in a jail.
- Although you may not be able to battle your real-life BFF, you can definitely teach him some things. So have him walk with you.
- And if you see Pokémon near a deputy, let him know! Pokémon might be telling you to also look for a career! We are hiring 1-800-A-DEPUTY
The California DMV tweeted out this message for those on the road:
With this advice in mind, trainers, go out and be the very best, like no one ever was.
By the way, KPCC’s office in Pasadena is a Poké Stop, so come on by. We promise not to rob you.