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Pokemon icons near 74 sex predators in Nassau, report says

A user plays Pokemon Go on Main Street

A user plays Pokemon Go on Main Street in Huntington on July 13, 2016. Credit: David L. Pokress

ALBANY — A virtual Pokemon Go character sitting on the sidewalk of the home of a registered sex offender in Massapequa and another character hunched on the front patio of a registered sex offender’s home in Hempstead were among the virtual game pieces that attracted youths to 74 sex offenders’ homes in Nassau County, according to a State Senate report scheduled for release Friday.

An investigation this month by Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) found that of a sample of 100 sex offenders’ homes visited using the cellphone game, 74 had least one Pokemon Go character or gym within a half block.

Klein reported that 38 characters were found near registered sex offenders in Hempstead, five in North Hempstead, and 31 in Oyster Bay.

Klein said a total of 88 Pokemon Go game characters were found in front of residences of registered sex offenders, and that 14 Pokestops or gyms were within a half-block of sex offenders’ residences.

“I understand the popularity of the game,” Klein told Newsday Thursday. “It’s a modern-day virtual treasure hunt.”

Klein said his colleagues support acting on proposed legislation to keep characters away from sex predators when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

He said restrictions to protect youths are needed and could be easily made by Niantic, the company that created the game, if it incorporated the state sex offender registry that’s already online into its formula for choosing locations to place virtual characters.

“It’s a very easy step,” Klein said.

Klein said his emails, letters and copies of investigative reports sent to executives at Niantic have received no response.

The company didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday. A week ago, the company, promised to cooperate:

“We are always listening to our community and we have heard the concerns raised in recent days about Pokemon Go. 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.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that all registered sex offenders in New York on parole and under state supervision will be banned from playing Pokemon Go. Cuomo also urged counties that supervise probation of offenders to adopt the same restriction.

Klein has done similar investigations of sex offenders’ residences in Westchester and other counties.

He said the wild popularity of Pokemon Go — with more than 100 million downloads since July — means there will be other games using images provided through an app for players to make searches in the real world.

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