Pokemon Go players at Civic Center Park in July. Photo: Andy Stevko

The Berkeley Police Department is warning players of the wildly popular Pokemon Go game to take some basic safety measures after at least two robberies and one attempt in the city in less than a month.

The free mobile app was released in early July and allows cellphone users to “hunt” for Pokemon species in real-world locations.

Police have said part of the problem is due to people visiting areas because of the game that they may be unfamiliar with, or would not otherwise have gone to.

“In the last month there have been two completed and one attempted pedestrian robberies where the victims were all distracted by the game. One robbery resulted in the arrest of two adults,” said Sgt. Andrew Frankel, BPD spokesman, in a prepared statement.

BPD described the “growing crime trend” related to the smartphone game and has asked players to keep their phones in their pockets until they reach their destinations, and play the game with friends — particularly at night — rather than alone. 

On July 12 at 9:15 p.m., dispatchers got a call about a woman screaming in the 2300 block of Dana Street. She told officers who responded she had just finished playing the game.

“She said she cut through a parking lot on the south side of the street when she noticed she was being followed by two suspects. One of the two knocked her to the ground while he attempted to take her phone. The other suspect pulled her purse off of her shoulder. The suspects then fled northbound through the parking lot and got into a waiting SUV which fled southbound on Dana Street,” according to the police statement.

She described the suspects as two young “baby-faced” black men with slender builds who were wearing dark hooded sweatshirts.

Police often try to remind the public about the potential dangers of “distracted walking,” which often involves cellphones. These cards are available in the BPD lobby. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Police often try to remind the public about the potential dangers of “distracted walking,” which often involves cellphones. These cards are available in the BPD lobby. Photo: Emilie Raguso

On July 31, at about 2:45 p.m., police got a report of a robbery involving a Pokemon Go player at Parker and Warring streets.

“The suspect jumped out of a waiting vehicle, punched the victim and then took his phone from his hand,” according to the statement. “Following the robbery the suspect ran to a waiting sedan and fled southbound on Warring Street. The suspect vehicle was stopped a few miles from the crime scene and two arrests were subsequently made.”

Police are not releasing their names due to the ongoing investigation, Frankel said.

The most recent incident took place Monday at about 5:30 p.m. at Civic Center Park, 2151 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

A male victim was in the park playing the game when someone tried to grab his phone from his hand., police said. He struggled with the suspect and managed to keep his phone.

The suspect was described by the victim as a black teenager, 15-16 years old, in a gray hooded sweatshirt wearing black and white Air Jordan sneakers who fled eastbound on nearby Allston Way.

See the full panorama image from Andy Stevko by clicking the image above, then use the magnifying glass to view it larger. Or view the image “in the round” on Facebook.
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The park is one of Berkeley’s Pokemon Go “hotspots,” readers have previously told Berkeleyside. Dozens of people congregate there every night with virtual Pokemon swarming everywhere, according to another tipster.

Police ask anyone with information regarding the above cases to call the Berkeley Police Department Robbery Detail at 510-981-5900. Read more about Pokemon Go on the company website.

5 robberies in Berkeley in less than 2 hours Monday (08.02.16)
Serious Berkeley crime skyrockets in first half of 2015 (09.10.15)
Violent crime dropped 25% in Berkeley in 2014 (03.10.15)
Violent crime reports down 44% in Berkeley (09.08.14)
Trio in South Berkeley robs teen of shoes (06.13.14)
Berkeley woman sprayed by liquid, struck, robbed (04.29.14)
3 teens arrested after Berkeley robbery, assault (04.23.14)
Robberies rise, but serious crime down overall in 2013 (03.14.14)
Council highlights gangs, staffing during crime report (09.19.13)
Berkeley pedestrian robberies up 35%, burglaries up too (09.17.13)
Berkeley crime analysis: Robberies up 25% in 2013 (05.16.13)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...