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Law enforcement feeling strain from Pokemon Go game

Hundreds of calls for suspicious persons
Posted at 5:28 PM, Jul 20, 2016
Pokemon Go seems to be adding to the work load for law enforcement around Tampa Bay.
 
The Pasco Sheriff’s office said they’ve had hundreds of calls in recent weeks. They are getting reports of suspicious people all related to the game.
 
Normally downtown San Antonio is a ghost town, but lately there are hordes of people walking the streets.
 
And deputies have to figure out who’s suspicious and who’s just playing Pokemon Go.
 
Most of the popular Pokemon Go spots in sleepy San Antonio are along Pennsylvania Avenue and at the park.
 
"Basically there are 6 of those Poke stops in this general area that you can see,” said Pasco Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Merwin.
 
But one of the stops is behind the fire station, near a city storage area.
 
"The first couple of nights I just saw people back there by the equipment so I was worried they were loitering, prowling or trying to steal something. Then I discovered the game,” said Merwin.
 
This growing number of suspicious people could put a strain on resources.
 
Deputy Merwin is one of just two deputies assigned to San Antonio, and the influx of people hanging around at all hours is keeping them busy.
 
He even downloaded the app to keep track of the players.
 
Well actually his 7-year-old daughter downloaded it and showed him how it works.
 
"I get to engage with people more. Actually for me it works out better because now I have a reason to stop and ask them what they are doing and engage with them and ask them what they are doing,” said Merwin.
 
"How do you differentiate between loitering and playing Pokemon Go?"
 
"I don't think you can,” said Pokemon Go player William Fortunate.
 
Nearby St. Leo University is a also hot spot for Pokemon Go.
 
"They start at this end of the college and they go the entire length like nine of them I guess,” said Merwin.
 
Non-students are welcome to come on campus to play if they check in with security first.
 
"Right at the entrance is the campus safety office. And there's actually a Pokemon stop at the campus safety office,” said Merwin.
 
Players understand why deputies want to keep an eye on them, like the time Fortunato was Pokemon hunting outside the library after dark.
 
"I'm sure it looked a little strange to him because it's just 7 or 8 people standing around staring at their phone, nobody's really talking to each other,” he said.
 
Pasco County isn’t alone. St. Petersburg police said they’ve investigated at least 15 suspicious persons calls. Many of them involve people jumping the fence at the pier chasing Pokemon.
 
In another case, a woman jogging at 6:30 a.m. noticed a car following her. It turned out to be a man playing Pokemon Go.