Game’s popularity causing some problems in Hobbs
Like many things, the rampant popularity of “Pokemon Go” has its positives and its negatives and in this case the negatives are damage to public property and traffic violations.
The various PokeStops and training gyms around the community have led to a significant number of people to flood public places and other areas with concerns over safety and even damage to property coming to the forefront. There are also reports of some Hobbs residents not adhering to traffic rules while playing.
The New Mexico Junior College itself has experienced several problems and complaints arising from the campus’ hotspot status since it has several PokeStops and a gym. There have been reports of hundreds of players a day coming onto the campus to play. There have been a few incidents on campus when cones were put up after people drove onto pedestrian walkways, according to NMJC Director of Public Safety Dennis Kelley.
“We really wish they would move,” Kelley said. “They are causing a great deal of difficulty. They’re problematic. They’re interrupting our day-to-day operations. They’re causing damage. They’re going into places on the campus that they shouldn’t be.”
Kelley said there’s a lot of pedestrian traffic “following their phones” and also vehicular traffic doing the same and not watching the road or the pedestrians. Some motorists are also driving on places not designed for the traffic.
“Between the damage that’s being caused and the potential for somebody to be hurt or killed, those are our primary concerns,” he said.
Kelley said the damage includes landscaping and noted some were trying to gain entry into locked doors at the close of business. He added that their goal is voluntary compliance and he hasn’t gotten any reports from the sheriff’s office about citations.
“We’ve got hundreds of people out here after hours that are just all over the place,” he said. “It’s disconcerting.”
“In the first four days of this week, we counted over 400 individuals gathered,” Darrell Beauchamp, executive director of the Western Heritage Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame, said. “Our parking lot most evenings has been full with people walking our gardens and doing this Pokemon thing.”
He recounted that the museum was a “little afraid” about what would happen, but has found that everyone has been respectful of the museum grounds. Beauchamp said the museum has had a positive experience overall and is not discouraging the players as long as everyone behaves.
“It was kind of interesting early on because we didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “We had to stop and ask some people, ‘What are you doing?’ They tried to explain it to us and it’s just become a real gathering spot.”
The PokeStop locations may not be set in stone, however, as one Hobbs resident said there are efforts to move it into town, citing disruptions at the junior college.
“Recently, the company that released this game has put out a system for players to start putting in applications for different places or different locations to become hotspots,” Markos Jimenez said. “We’re putting in an effort to make the happening place Broadway.”
Officials with the Lea County Sheriff’s Office and Lovington Police Department reported they weren’t aware of any Pokemon Go related calls, but Hobbs Police Deputy Chief Brian Dunlap said the department has responded to some within the last week involving the game.
“Suspicious subjects and also some reckless driver calls or driving related calls where people were driving five miles an hour down the street trying to find Pokemon,” he said. “Within the last week, four or five calls related to that. Nothing resulting in a criminal offense, as of yet.”
Across the country, reports of traffic problems have been reported as the game awards points for walking and some motorists have taken to driving slow to gain points without actually walking.
Dunlap encouraged people not to drive around looking for Pokemon unless you want to park the car and then catch them.
“When you’re affecting traffic, it becomes a dangerous situation,” he said.