CBS12 Investigates: Sex Offenders Living Near Pokémon GO Destinations
WEST PALM BEACH (CBS12) —
With an estimated 9.5-million daily players, Pokémon GO is one of the most popular gaming apps in the world, but that popularity comes with a price!
CBS12 Investigates found an alarming number of registered sex offenders living near PokéGyms and PokéStops.
If you don’t know how it works, Pokémon GO is a game where players need to travel around to catch Pokémon.
They stop at PokéStops to buy items and at PokéGyms to battle each other, but those stops and gyms can be anywhere—including where CBS12 found more than 1,000 registered sex offenders.
The popular gaming app takes you into an augmented reality: a map showing your surroundings overlapped with digital characters. Pokémon like Rattatas and Weedles pop up on your map.
The goal? To catch them all!
CBS12 Investigates went on the hunt—not for Pokémon but for registered sex offenders living next to PokéGyms and PokéStops.
We pulled maps from Florida’s online sex offender registry and hit the road.
Led by the Pokémon GO app, CBS12 investigates went from Lake Worth to Jupiter to Riviera Beach-- from PokéStop to PokéStop, PokéGym to PokéGym and found sex offenders living in some cases—if not down the street—directly across the street.
• In Lake Worth, a PokéGym is located where three sex offenders are living within one block.
• In Riviera Beach near a PokéStop at the library on Blue Heron Boulevard there are three sex offenders live within blocks.
• In Jupiter, one sex offender registered his home as the empty lot right across the street from the PokéStop at the library—next to a playground.
• In Mangonia Park, at a PokéStop at a church, eight sex offenders live nearby.
• In West Palm Beach, at a PokéStop on U.S. 1 just south of Northwood Road, there are four offenders living right across the street.
CBS12 Investigates took our findings to local law enforcement to see if they were aware of just how close sex offenders are to Pokémon GO sanctioned gyms and stops, and they were just as shocked at our findings as we were.
“That’s not good. I wasn’t aware of that,” Chief Wes Smith III of the Lake Clarke Shores Police Department told us.
It’s the first time he heard about Pokémon GO players playing near registered sex offenders’ homes.
“If you look at a map, there’s sex offenders all over Palm Beach County. So, whoever’s doing the map and creating the icons at parks and stuff might not know that there’s sex offenders just a couple miles away,” he said.
We also took our findings to the maker of Pokémon GO, Niantic, and asked if they took registered sex offenders into consideration.
In a statement, the company wrote:
“PokéStops and PokéGyms in Pokémon GO are found at publicly accessible places such as historical markers, public art installations, museums and monuments.”
That wasn’t what we asked, so we asked the company again if it takes the location of sex offenders and predators into consideration.
They still have not answered our question.
And we’re not the only ones asking.
Nancy McBride is executive director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Lake Park.
She said her organization is doing everything they can to work with Niantic to make Pokémon GO safer. She wants everyone to be aware of where offenders and predators call home.
“There no place that’s exempt,” she said. “Better to know than not to know!”
“In your community, you’re going to be pretty appalled that there’s such a large number of sex offenders in Palm Beach County,” she added.
Courtney Crockett, a mother from Tequesta, told CBS12 she has concerns about the game.
“It’s pretty scary," she said. "I won’t even let my kids use the app. I’m pretty protective of my kids too.”
One of the things that we learned about Pokémon GO is that if someone wishes to report locations or content they believe to be inappropriate, they can submit a ticket on the Pokémon GO support website.