It was 1:30 a.m. and Spencer Williams, 20, was minding his own business near the Scarborough post office, hunting rare Pokemon, when he encountered a sight that was less rare.

A Scarborough police officer on an overnight patrol drew to a stop at the curb nearby.

“He asked us, ‘Are you OK, are you all right?’ ” Williams said. “We told him we’re playing Pokemon. And he said ‘OK, have fun, be safe.’ ”

About an hour later, the scene played out again, this time in the Scarborough High School parking lot, with a different officer.

“Another police officer came up to us and asked, ‘What are you guys up to?’ ” he said. “They didn’t really have a problem with it, which was really cool.”

With millions of people downloading and playing Pokemon Go since its release July 7, the mobile augmented-reality game has quickly become a phenomenon. Local police are finding the game’s players wandering at all hours of the night, especially in parks and cemeteries, loitering around closed businesses and stopped on roadsides in their pursuit of one of the digitally rendered creatures.


But with the craze has come a backlash.

Locations of national import and solemn remembrance have asked to be removed as a destination for the game: Administrators of Arlington National Cemetery made such a request in order to stop players from disrupting the atmosphere while chasing Pokemon. Likewise, officials at the U.S. National Holocaust Museum have said the memorial to the victims of Nazism is not an appropriate place for digital hijinks.

Internationally, players have reported finding Pokemon even at such solemn memorials as the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.


According to the Pokemon Go website, publicly accessible places such as historical markers, public art installations, museums and monuments are used as places to look for Pokemon or collect items that can be used to capture the creatures. Players who want to report inappropriate locations are asked to submit a request to the website.

An email requesting comment from the game’s developers, Niantic Labs, an internal start-up at Google, did not get a response Monday.


In Maine, the game’s locations have so far not been as high-profile.

BIDDEFORD, ME Ð JULY 18: Joey Dragon plays Pokemon Go as he walks in Woodlawn Cemetery Monday, July 18, 2016 in Biddeford, Maine. (Photo by Joel Page/Staff Photographer)

Joey Dragon plays Pokemon Go as he walks in Woodlawn Cemetery in Biddeford on Monday. Police issued warnings to two players for criminal trespass after they entered the cemetery after hours Saturday. Joel Page/Staff Photographer

In Biddeford, police had to ask about 30 people to move along Sunday night from Mechanic’s Park, and an officer issued warnings for criminal trespass Saturday to two people, ages 35 and 28, who entered Woodlawn Cemetery after hours while playing Pokemon Go.

In South Portland, over the past 10 days since the game was released, police have recorded at least eight instances of officers encountering players during their nightly rounds. In Freeport, too, police have come across a smattering of Pokemon seekers after hours, with no serious consequences.

So far in all cases, police said, officers have taken the opportunity to educate the players about park hours, or how, for instance, every cemetery in the state of Maine closes 30 minutes before dusk. Sometimes, like in Williams’ case, the response from police is casual acceptance.

“There were no issues,” said Deputy Biddeford Police Chief JoAnne Fisk. “We didn’t even give them any citations. We educated them. It’s a non-issue, so let’s not make it an issue.”

Fisk also reiterated a point that has bounced around internet circles and social media in light of the Pokemon craze: “Think how ridiculous this is,” she said. “The fact we’re simply talking about this, there are so many more pressing issues, but we’re talking about it.”


In Sanford, police wrote a Facebook post to debrief players on proper Poke-etiquette, advising them to obey local laws and curfew rules and to remain alert to their surroundings.

The department also sought to head off any gung-ho players who may think police headquarters might make fine hunting grounds.

“Yes, there are probably Pokemon at the Police Department. No, you cannot come in and look for them as they are locked up awaiting trial for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct,” the post said.


But in other places across the country, Pokemon Go has led players into macabre or risky circumstances. In a San Diego park, three Pokemon Go players stumbled onto a dead body that had likely been there for weeks, the L.A.Los Angeles Times reported. Two other corpses in New Hampshire and Wyoming also have been spotted by players of the game, the newspaper reported.

In Palm Coast, Florida over the weekend, two players who were playing Pokemon Go in their car at 1:30 a.m. were shot at by a man who came out of his house nearby with a gun, USA Today reported.


Maine police say they aren’t too worried, even though they have received requests for a police check from concerned residents who, in the dim evening hours, see only the blue-white glow of a phone screen, or watch a car drive past their house over and over. In the era of “see something, say something,” who could blame them?

“Reports of suspicious people is how the calls come in,” said Lt. Todd Bernard of the South Portland police. “My opinion is, it’s harmless. It’s a fad that will likely die off quickly. Most people, when we tell them you can’t be in the cemetery, they say OK and move along. I’ve seen a lot more serious things happening out late at night than looking for a mythical Pikachu.”

BIDDEFORD, ME Ð JULY 18: Jazmine Ortiz plays Pokemon Go as she walks through Woodlawn Cemetery Monday, July 18, 2016 in Biddeford, Maine. (Photo by Joel Page/Staff Photographer)

Jazmine Ortiz plays Pokemon Go as she walks through Woodlawn Cemetery in Biddeford on Monday. Joel Page/Staff Photographer

One such player who has received his share of leery glances is Joey Dragon, 38, of Biddeford.

With a back injury that makes it difficult for him to walk long distances, Dragon drives around with the game open on his phone, waiting for an opportunity to pull over and capture a creature, scoop up free in-game items or do virtual battle in a Pokemon gym.

“I got some dirty looks,” Dragon said. “Actually, I’m getting one right now. I drive by a couple times, (people) think I’m going to do something wrong.”



In Portland, Evergreen Cemetery on Stevens Avenue has been a hot spot for Pokemon activity, sometimes to the chagrin of the groundskeepers.

Joe Dumais, the parks and cemeteries manager for the city whose office is located in the cemetery, said he returned from a week of vacation Monday only to hear about the new crop of untraditional visitors.

“My crew are telling me about Pokemon Go, and I said, ‘What the heck is that?’ ”

Dumais was quickly brought up to speed on the game by a younger member of the grounds squad, but it’s still unclear to him what the cemetery’s policy should be regarding players who wander in, he said. After hearing about the decision by Arlington National Cemetery, he does not know whether Portland will make a similar ruling on whether Pokemon fits into the allowable “passive recreation.”

“It is a place of reverence, but also people treat the cemeteries as a park,” he said. “Is this considered passive recreation? I do believe that if we were having a funeral service or somebody’s here visiting a loved one and the Pokemon ball happens to be bouncing across their grave, I don’t think that’s appropriate.”


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