Monday, August 1, 2016

Frightening Pokémon GO sex offender investigation sent to Niantic Inc

Senators Klein & Savino urge company in letter to remove in-game objectives from within 100-feet of high-level sex offenders homes

Legislators also introduce legislation to requiring companies to consult sex offender registry; and bar sex offenders from playing augmented reality games

Senators Jeff Klein and Diane Savino on Monday sent a copy of their frightening investigation to Pokémon GO game developer Niantic Inc., asking the company in a letter to police their own application by purging in-game objectives from within 100-feet of dangerous sexual predators listed publicly under Megan’s Law.

Within 48 hours of the investigation’s release, Governor Andrew Cuomo recognized that the alarming discoveries spelled disaster and issued a directive to ban sex offenders from playing internet-based games.

“We do not want children hunting down to encounter a predator. Lingering in front of a dangerous pedophile’s home to capture a wild Zubat, a Pidgey or a Pikachu could lead to dangerous consequences and that’s why we must make sure that Niantic, Inc. and all future augmented reality game makers remove in-game objectives from appearing within 100-feet of sex offenders’ addresses. That includes pokéstops and Gyms where children congregate,” said Senator Klein.

“There could be real world consequences to playing augmented reality games and before any child winds up getting hurt we want Niantic, Inc. to act responsibly. Throwing pokeballs in front of a predator’s home to catch a creature generated by the game, or hanging out to battle a Pokemon at a Gym or collect needed objects at a pokéstop within 100-feet of a sex offender’s home puts children at risk,” said Senator Savino.

During the investigation, 100 Level 2 and 3 sex offenders’ residences were visited. “Protecting Our Children: How Pokémon GO and Augmented Reality Games Expose Children to Sex Offenders,” released on Friday, found:

  • Pokémon materialized in front of Level 2 or 3 sex offenders’ homes 57% of the time.

  • Pokéstops or Gyms were located within a half-block of convicted pedophiles’ residences 59% of the time.

  • A Pokémon-related item appeared near a high-level sex offenders’ residences 73% of the time.

Senators Klein and Savino introduced legislation to require augmented reality game developers to regularly consult the Division of Criminal Justice Services sex offender registry and remove all in-game objectives within 100-feet of a high-level sex offenders home.

The legislators also introduced legislation to ban Level 2 and 3 sex offenders on parole and probation from playing augmented reality games. This legislation will codify Governor Cuomo’s directive.

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