NEW CITY, N.Y. - While Pokémon Go is a wildly popular game, the message outside the Rockland County courthouse on Thursday was one of caution.
State Sen. Jeffrey Klein and Sen. David Carlucci released the findings of an investigative report --- the second such report in two weeks -- that showed a correlation between Pokémon Go and sex offenders.
Since its release in July by Niantic, Inc., Pokémon Go' has been downloaded 100 million times. The app is an "augmented reality" game that utilizes smartphone cameras and GPS to allow players to search the real world to find and catch virtual Pokémon, fictional creatures.
After randomly selecting 100 addresses of registered Level 2 and 3 sex offenders, representatives from both senators' offices visited these addresses while playing the game and found the following:
- -A Pokémon appeared in front of a registered sex offenders home 93 out of 100 times during visits (50 in Westchester, 43 in Rockland)
- -14 Pokéstops or gyms (both in-game features where people congregate) were found to be near registered sex offenders homes
- -63 percent of the time an in-game feature (a Pokémon, Pokéstop or Gym) was found in front of or near a registered sex offenders home (48 in Westchester, 15 in Rockland)
Klein acknowledged that there are many positives that come from the game, that some families play it together and it gets people outside.
“But when we open the door to technology we also have to be very mindful of the potential dangers that come with it,” Klein said. He described the findings in Rockland as "astounding."
According to data provided by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services there are 146 total sex offenders registered in Rockland County and 619 in Westchester.
Of those 146 in Rockland, 39 are Level 2 registered sex offenders and 24 are Level 3. In Westchester there are 211 registered Level 2 offenders and 166 registered Level 3 offenders. (The crimes of Level 2 and 3 offenders involved the sexual abuse of a child or possession of child pornography, are out on parole, and must be registered.)
"We have to make sure that as we're having children explore the community that they do it in a protected place," Carlucci said.
There are currently laws on the books that not only prevent sex offenders from living within 1,000 of a school but also limit their internet activity, including a ban on accessing pornographic material or social media sites.
“But when we open the door to technology we also have to be very mindful of the potential dangers that come with it,” Klein said.
It’s unclear if these laws prevent sex offenders from playing Pokémon Go prompting Klein and Carlucci to introduce legislation that would ban sex offenders on parole or probation from playing these augmented reality games and require game developers to "police themselves" and regularly update and remove all in-game features that fall within 100 feet of a registered sex offender's home.
As technology proliferates Carlucci emphasized that legislation is needed to ensures they do not fall behind.
Last week Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to restrict the use of Pokémon Go and other games by sex offenders under community supervision. A letter was also sent to Niantic requesting their assistance in the matter.
Klein and Carlucci sent a letter to Niantic hoping to have their concerns address. As of Aug. 4 they have not heard back.
The demographic of children both senators are most concerned are children who are 10 years old or younger. It's unclear what percentage of Pokémon Go users fall within this age bracket, Klein said.
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