When a new augmented reality game was released earlier this year, it quickly captured the world’s collective imagination, sending everyone on a quest to catch them all and visit as many Pokéstops as they could. In fact, it is estimated that the game has as many as 9.5 million daily active users in the U.S.
How did the game get so popular? Well, for one thing, it’s free to download. For another, it’s a lot of fun. And plenty of people praise it for its health benefits, which include a more active lifestyle, less anxiety and depression, and even weight loss.
Since the game is played in the real world, however, there are also real-world dangers that come with it. Players have focused too much on the screen and ended up in the ER. Others have been robbed or attacked while distracted by the game. And one player even stumbled upon a dead body.
It’s stories like those that remind us why we should all practice caution. Just because a new creature was sighted in a dark alley past midnight in a high-crime area doesn’t mean you should head that way.
So what are the most dangerous PokéStops out there? Where should avid gamers keep their wits about them – or even avoid? We did the math for five major cities and here’s what we found.
Sleepless Over Seattle’s PokéStops
Even as the craze seems to be leveling out, according to Apptopia, there are still a lot of people playing their hearts out at places like the Space Needle and Green Lake.
And while the Space Needle might be a safe place to go hunting, not every spot in Seattle can claim the same. The stops and gyms with the most nearby crime included the Blue Trees art installation downtown, Cunningham Hall (at the University of Washington), and the Bronze Horse sculpture over the doorway of 88 Keys Dueling Piano and Sports Bar.
Of course, not every sketchy PokéStop is dangerous in the same way. Overlapping spheres on 3rd Avenue and Lenora Street had the most theft occur within a half-mile radius, and also had the most assaults that included a person being shot at. Meanwhile, prostitution most often occurred at the Fairyland Mural in Greater Duwamish.
Trespassing, which the game explicitly warns against doing, most occurred at Blue Trees, Cunningham Hall, and the Seattle Walk of Fame. While trespassing is a minor crime, you might want to stay clear of stops with more serious crimes. For example, Follow the Red Door to Freedom, a mural on the side of the Cancer Pathways building on Broadway, had the lewdest behavior, including exposing, flashing, and urinating in public.
Check out the interactive map below to see how many crimes have occurred at Seattle PokéStops near you.
The Perilous PokéStops of Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, overall crime is up for the second year in a row, but some areas pose a greater threat than others. For players of the game, the biggest danger zones were located near or around downtown. The most dangerous PokéStop was The Church (short for Jesus Christ is Lord Universal Church of the Kingdom of God), located off Wilshire Boulevard west of downtown Los Angeles.
The Museum of African American Art was the second most dangerous PokéStop, located in the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw neighborhood. The third most dangerous spot took us back to downtown Los Angeles. “Spray Paint Love” might sound delightful, but you’re likely to find crime within the half-mile radius.
As with Seattle, the types of Los Angeles crimes varied by location. “Aztec Warrior,” located near Hollywood Boulevard, was the most common place to be pickpocketed. This area is popular for tourists, so those visiting Los Angeles should keep their wallets in a front pocket.
Assault – both with and without a deadly weapon – was most common around “Spray Paint Love” in downtown. Players should also stay far away from “Chuck in the Alley” and “Spray Paint Love,” both high-risk areas for rape.
To see which PokéStop locations could be considered dangerous, check out the interactive map of Los Angeles below.
New York City’s Grittiest PokéStops
New York City is a favorite spot for players of the game, with Central Park hosting many PokéStops, especially. And though crime continues to drop in the city, leaving residents and visitors safer each year, some areas are still safer than others. According to our data, Chariot was the riskiest stop, located in the tourist-heavy Rockefeller Center area.
The second most dangerous location was the Manhattan Trade School for Girls building, now known as School of the Future. Finally, the Woman Face Mural located in Fordham Manor was the third most dangerous.
The “Woman Face Mural” in Fordham Manor was not only the third most dangerous stop in New York City, but it also had the highest instances of felony assault, robbery, and murder. “Chariot” and the “Manhattan Trade School for Girls”, the first and second most dangerous PokéStops, had a higher-than-usual rate of grand larceny.
Players should take special care to avoid St. Nicholas Park in Manhattan, a high-risk area for rape, as well as other parks in the city, where crimes that have been declining in the rest of the city have been on the rise.
Explore our interactive map below to see which dangerous NYC PokéStops are near you.
Baton Rouge’s Riskiest PokéStops
Louisiana has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the 10 worst U.S. states for violent crime.
Despite a high crime rate, and Baton Rouge’s reputation as one of the murder capitals of the U.S., the game has flourished as much here as in any other city. The most high-crime places to go hunting for cute little monsters in the Louisiana capital were Reggie’s, Times of Refreshing World Outreach Ministries, and the Baton Rouge Post Office.
All of the most dangerous stops were located in or around the center of Baton Rouge, except for Reggie’s, a popular bar for nearby LSU students (an LSU football player was stabbed at the bar earlier this year). While the most dangerous stop was a bar, five of the top 10 most dangerous spots were churches or ministries.
As with our other cities, however, crime rate may be less important than crime type. The Baton Rouge Post Office and Reggie’s were the biggest hosts to non-violent crimes like marijuana possession, public drinking, and car theft.
Louisiana Technology Park had the most instances of battery, and Kingdom Life Church was a hot spot for assault. A church or ministry PokéStop placed in the top three in all crime categories, except for those involving alcohol.
To see which local stops are dangerous, explore our interactive map below.
“Sin-cinnati” City’s Scariest PokéStops
The final city we analyzed for PokéStop crime risk was Cincinnati, whose popular PokéStops include Ault Park and the University of Cincinnati – luckily, neither of these locations made our top 10. However, the Chipotle restaurant located south of the university was the fifth most dangerous stop in the city.
Glenway Crossing Clock Tower, located in Western Hills, had the most crimes nearby, while Fechheimer Park, off East McMillan Street, had the second most. The Angel Statue, outside of Holy Family Catholic School, was the third most dangerous.
Glenway Crossing Clock Tower was high on the danger scale for crimes like rape, car theft, and purse-snatching. Murder was highest near New St. Paul Missionary, Fechheimer Park, and Angel Statue. Fechheimer Park was at the top of the list for menacing and assault crimes.
The Art of Chipotle had the second most instances of purse-snatching, forcible rape, pickpocketing, and theft from a motor vehicle. If you frequent the Chipotle restaurant located south of the University of Cincinnati, you might want to get your burrito to-go.
To see which local stops are the most dangerous, explore our interactive below.
“Go” With Caution
The emotional, mental, and physical health benefits of the game are well documented and not to be dismissed, but as with any city exploration or outdoor activity, it’s also vital to know where it is – and more importantly, isn’t – safe to explore.
So next time you grab your smartphone and hit the trails, do a little research first to make sure you aren’t heading into a dangerous area. And no matter where you go, always stay alert, keep your valuables out of sight, and leave immediately if you feel unsafe.
Using 2015 crime data from five major cities, we were able to see which PokéStops had crimes occur within half of a mile from the stop, as well as how frequently the crimes occurred, and which types of crimes were most common. To see how the crime categories were described, please go to the bottom of the page.
Before you go and share this with your readers, don’t drop the ball. Please attribute our authors and link your readers to this page.
Crime Category Information
Crime categories as described in Seattle dataset:
VICE - PROSTITUTION
ASLT - IP/JO - PERSON
SHOT OR SHOT AT & ASLT - PERSON SHOT OR SHOT AT
SEX IN PUBLIC PLACE/VIEW (INCL MASTURBATION)
DOA - CASUALTY, DEAD BODYLEWD - (EXPOSING, FLASHING, URINATING IN PUB)
AUTO THEFT - VEH THEFT OR THEFT AND RECOVERY
FIGHT - IP - PHYSICAL (NO WEAPONS) & FIGHT - JO - PHYSICAL (NO WEAPONS)
NARCOTICS - VIOLATIONS (LOITER, USE, SELL, NARS)
THEFT (DOES NOT INCLUDE SHOPLIFT OR SVCS)
Crime categories as described in Los Angeles dataset:
BIKE - STOLEN
ASSAULT WITH DEADLY WEAPON, AGGRAVATED ASSAULT
BURGLARY FROM VEHICLE
VEHICLE - STOLEN
BATTERY - SIMPLE ASSAULT
Crime categories as described in New York City dataset (These were the only categories in the data):
MURDER & NON-NEGL.
GRAND LARCENY OF MOTOR
Crime categories as described in Baton Rouge dataset:
POSS OF SCHEDULE 2 DRUGS
RESISTING AN OFFICER
DRINKING IN PUBLIC/CC
PURCH/POSS ALC PERS UNDER 21/CC
THEFT OF MOTOR VEHICLE
CRIM DAM TO PROP/SIMPLE
Crime categories as described in Cincinnati dataset:
MURDER - (Willful Killing)
THEFT - (Purse-Snatching)
THEFT - (Pocket-Picking)
RAPE - (Forcible Rape)
FELONIOUS ASSAULT - (Aggravated Assault)
THEFT - (Motor Vehicle)
ASSAULT - (Simple Assault)
THEFT - (From Motor Vehicle)