University of Maryland Police said three students were robbed at gunpoint while playing Pokémon Go Tuesday night.
Around 9:20 p.m., police responded to a robbery report outside of Tydings Hall. While canvassing the area for suspects, officers received two additional robbery reports. All of the incidents took place within a one-hour span on campus.
The first robbery occurred near Tydings Hall at 9:08 p.m. Police said the victim handed over his property to the suspect, and a gun may have been involved.
A second robbery took place near Queen Anne’s Hall around 10:12 p.m., and just three minutes later, a third robbery was reported at Queen Anne’s Hall. Officials said a black handgun was seen in these two incidents and property was stolen.
There were four victims in total, police said. Three of whom are University of Maryland students.
No injuries were reported and no suspects have been identified.
Investigators said three of the victims were playing Pokémon Go and they believe the suspect used the game to target victims. The fourth victim wasn’t playing the game, but had their phone out at the time of the robbery. The suspect stole their cell phones.
"In this case, in Pokémon Go, you can even be lured into an area where the app is being used and become a victim. We believe in part that's what happened last night," said University of Maryland police chief David Mitchell.
In the game, experienced players can use a lure module to attract Pokémon, but police believe the robber used it to attract victims. Unsuspecting players went to the station that turned out to be a trap.
"If I'm a bad guy, I can create a station and it'll disappear in 30 minutes, so it's limited in timeframe and very rich obviously in the return of investment because people now come to me, I don't have to look for people they already have their phones out and it's simple for me to grab it and take off," said Chief Mitchell.
With three Pokémon Go robberies reported in Parkville last week and numerous incidents across the country, there are some obvious flaws with the app, but that's not stopping gamers from trying to catch 'em all.
"I've got to walk my dog anyway, so why the heck not?," said Brian McLoughlin, a UMD staff member.
"What we have to do is be highly, highly visible, and ask the community to work with us and be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity when they see it," said Chief Mitchell.
Police believe only one suspect is involved. He’s described as a male of unknown race, slim build, wearing a black mask, white tennis shoes, and dark clothing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact UMPD at 301-405-3555.
Police provided the following safety tips to keep in mind while playing the popular new game:
- Stay alert and attuned to people and circumstances around you.
- If you see suspicious activity or behavior, call police right away.
- Avoid isolation. Take a friend when playing the game and stay in well-lit areas.
- Trust your instincts. They are a natural gift that tells you when something is wrong.
- Don’t play the game while driving.
- Do not trespass onto private property.