'Pokemon Go' craze concerning to law enforcement

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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- It’s the app that’s taking the cyber world by storm, receiving praise for getting players off the couch and catching Pokémon in real life.

The Pokémon Go app, released late last week, works like a virtual scavenger hunt where players find and catch Pokémon in the own neighborhoods.

UW-Stevens Point Department Chair of Computing and New Media Technologies Tim Krause says the app is changing the way people play video games

"I'm really impressed with this app. I'm impressed with its use of augmented reality. But I also think it's probably one of the first really popular examples of augmented reality, and I just think it's a sign of things to come."

The phones camera is used to give the appearance that Pokémon appear in front of the player, and GPS is used to track the player’s movements.

While it’s received praise, law enforcement officials like Portage County Sheriff Mike Lukas are concerned.

"It was suspicious to me because when you're watching somebody walking down the street and somebody starts jumping up and down and I thought there was a problem. So I stopped and checked on this individual. This was in the city of Stevens Point, and he said he was just trying to go through and find his Pokémon."

Reports of incidents linked to the app have some worried about player safety.

In Wyoming, a woman stumbled upon a body while trying to catch Pokémon, and in Missouri, armed robbers used the app to lure victims into isolated locations.

Sheriff Lukas said basic safety skills are key.

"You should always go with a partner, know where you're going, when you're coming back."

He also stressed the importance of staying aware of your surroundings, adding that players should never bike or drive while using the app.

Even with these measures, Krause said incidents will continue to occur.

"This is one of the first, most popular times that we're seeing video games taken from the living room to the outdoors, and as soon as you get to the outdoors, as anyone who knows who spends time out there, there are things that are going to happen. So I think we're going to hear more about them, and that's just going to be the unfortunate reality of getting everyone outside."

Both the Portage and Marathon County Sheriff’s Departments have not received any calls related to the app.