NIAGARA FALLS – Six people were robbed at gunpoint of their cellphones Tuesday night during two separate incidents in Niagara Falls State Park, which at the time was crowded with Pokemon Go players, reported Lt. Patrick Moriarty of the State Park Police.
One of the holdups was committed by a group of eight to 10 people who approached three people on the Green Island Bridge (the pedestrian bridge) at around 11:40 p.m., Moriarty said. One of the suspects displayed a weapon, Moriarty said.
In that incident, one of the victims, an 18-year-old, was punched in the face and robbed of his wallet, police said.
“I don’t ever remember a group that large approaching another group,” Moriarty said.
The earlier incident occurred at 6:30 p.m. on Goat Island when three teenagers were approached by three suspects who took their cellphones at gunpoint.
“There were a lot of people here last night, dozens and dozens in different areas of the park playing Pokemon Go,” said Moriarty.
It could not be determined whether any of the six victims was engaged in the smart phone game in which players collect Pokemon while physically traveling to various locations, especially popular public areas. Moriarty did say that five of the six people robbed were local residents.
“We’re not going to tolerate something like this happening in a state park, and we will be stepping up patrols,” said Moriarty. “I would also urge the Pokemon Go enthusiasts to be very aware of their surroundings and the people around them.”
Niagara Falls State Park is open 24 hours a day. It is patrolled around the clock, said Moriarty.
The wildly popular phone game has been linked to numerous crimes across the country since it was released about three weeks ago. Several Pokemon Go players have reported being robbed of their phones while playing, and in Missouri, several teenagers used a beacon to lure players.
The Pokemon Company International and Niantic Inc. released a statement following the alleged incidents.
“We take player safety seriously and want everybody to have a fantastic time exploring while safely playing Pokemon GO,” the company said. “We encourage all people to be aware of their surroundings and to play alongside friends or family, especially when you’re exploring unfamiliar places. Please remember to be safe and alert at all times, don’t drive and play, abide by local laws, and respect the locations you visit and people you meet during your exploration.”