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Largo police warn of dangers as 'trendy zombies' swarm park playing Pokémon Go

The popularity of Nintendo's new Pok?mon Go smartphone app has police warning users to keep their safety in mind while hunting the fictional, digital creatures. Here are some local Pok?mon: A Squritle on First Avenue S in St. Petersburg, a Dodu in downtown St. Petersburg, and a Pidgey in a Publix. These are three examples how the Pok?mon appears on phone screens in the Tampa Bay area. [Sara DiNatale and Scott Pollenz   |   Times photos]

The popularity of Nintendo's new Pok?mon Go smartphone app has police warning users to keep their safety in mind while hunting the fictional, digital creatures. Here are some local Pok?mon: A Squritle on First Avenue S in St. Petersburg, a Dodu in downtown St. Petersburg, and a Pidgey in a Publix. These are three examples how the Pok?mon appears on phone screens in the Tampa Bay area. [Sara DiNatale and Scott Pollenz | Times photos]

Nintendo's new Pokémon Go game is tricking plenty of people into doing cardio. That's the good news.

The bad news: the growing popularity of the distracting smartphone app has police warning users to stay safe.

To play the game, launched last week, players use their smartphones to go on a virtual scavenger hunt for the fictional creatures, which were first popularized in the 1990s by Pokémon cards and the TV show.

The game is catching on.

In St. Petersburg, players are planning a "Pokémon Go Pokebar Crawl" downtown on July 23. More than 700 people are signed up on the event's Facebook page. Largo police reported Monday in a Facebook post that about 100 people were "walking around Largo Central Park last night around midnight staring aimlessly at their phones."

"It looked like a bunch of trendy zombies following a mystical GPS device," Largo police Lt. Paul Amodeo wrote.

While staring at phones isn't illegal, the park closes at 10 p.m., Amodeo said. He's also seen posts online of people driving while playing the game, which he said people should definitely not do.

Previous coverage: 'Pokémon Go' app catches attention of gamers across the world — and Tampa Bay

Police around the country are finding themselves dealing with Pokémon problems. Officers in O'Fallon, Mo., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that robbers targeted gamers by staking out secluded locations they knew would draw players. Police arrested two 18-year-olds, a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old on Sunday, saying they could've been involved in almost a dozen St. Louis-area robberies.

Largo police haven't reported any robberies.

"It's just getting big and because of the robbery we wanted to put it out there," Amodeo said.

Meanwhile, Nintendo's shares have jumped 25 percent as of noon Monday, adding billions to the Japanese company's valuation.

Contact Jack Suntrup at [email protected] or (727) 893-8092. Follow @JackSuntrup.

Largo police warn of dangers as 'trendy zombies' swarm park playing Pokémon Go 07/11/16 [Last modified: Monday, July 11, 2016 3:06pm]
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