The state has banned thousands of registered sex offenders in New York from playing the popular Pokemon Go game in which players “collect” characters in real life by viewing them through their cellphones.
In the latest move to restrict the game that has people roaming streets while looking at their cellphone screens, Monday’s directive prohibits sex offenders on parole from downloading the app, accessing the game or playing, to prevent them from using it to prey on youths searching for Pokemon cartoon characters.
“I don’t play a lot of Pokemon,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo joked Tuesday with reporters. But he added seriously: “A sexual predator could look at this game and say, ‘What a great way to get a kid to come to my house,’ ‘What a great way to get kids to the park next door.’ I will guarantee there are predators who had that thought.”
“I’m sure the company is going to cooperate,” Cuomo said.
On Tuesday the company, Niantic, said it would comply with any new laws in its effort to “encourage safe outdoor play and exercise.”
“We are always listening to our community, and we have heard the concerns raised in recent days about Pokemon Go,” the company said. “We will always ensure our products comply with applicable laws. We also believe that parents know their children and neighborhoods best, and we encourage them to supervise their kids to enjoy Pokemon Go safely, as they would with any outdoor activity or phone app.”
Cuomo’s action immediately affects more than 3,000 sex offenders now on parole and classified among the top three classes of offenders. For sex offenders on probation, the state is advising county probation departments to take the same measure.
The state Division of Criminal Justice Services will provide Niantic Inc., creator of Pokemon Go, with the state’s sex offender registry and ask the company to ban them from using the app.
Cuomo said his directive was spurred by a report from state Sens. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) and Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) that found the game luring youths near sex offenders’ homes.
Their bill would make it legal to prohibit certain sex offenders from playing Pokemon Go and other games that attract children. Many of highest-level sex offenders are already prohibited from using social media.
The legislation would also require game developers to make sure the objectives of players aren’t located within 100 feet of sex offenders’ addresses.
Klein said 57 Pokemon characters in boroughs throughout New York City were located near registered pedophiles’ homes.
“It’s absurd that a high-level predator should be allowed to have this map at his or her fingertips in the first place,” said Savino. “We devised simple solutions in light of this alarming investigation to keep our laws up to date as technology advances.”
Assemb. Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) is considering measures to protect New Yorkers against “tragic real-world consequences” while playing Pokemon Go, and other states also show concerns, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“Considering the newness of the game, its impact and potential for state legislation likely won’t be known for many months,” the NCSL stated in July. “But as the game continues to spike in popularity, it is something citizens and legislators will be keeping a non-virtual eye on.”