Gotta catch em’ all around campus, safely

Mallory Kutnick, Verge Reporter

The school year has officially kicked off. More students and teachers now rush to and from than one would have seen just three weeks ago.

Cars roam the streets, bicycles roam the sidewalks and Pokémon Trainers roam carefully.

University Police have found that, even in its July prime, mobile app Pokémon GO has caused no reported accidents or incidents on campus, despite the inherent safety concerns of being distracted while on the move.

Before July was over, our neighbors across the pond reported nearly 300 incidents of theft, assault and distracted driving.

Two women were struck and killed in separate incidents in Japan within the span of a week, and a 19-year-old stumbled upon a dead body in Wyoming.

I, meanwhile, tripped over my other left foot. It would seem my fellow Panthers aren’t faring any worse than I am.

The usage of smart phones on the go is as prevalent as ever – you can see one in the hands of every other person you pass on your way to class – but very few eyes are glued to the small screens.

Nobody I’ve encountered thus far on this tiny campus has stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to catch that peskily pervasive Pidgey.

Despite this relative calm, University Police Chief Kent Martin encourages players to remain alert, both for trip hazards such as tree roots and uneven pavement and for the potential for theft.

“Not around here, but I’ve heard, in bigger cities, people have gotten robbed because they’re not paying attention,” Martin said. “They become a vulnerable target.”

Martin also reiterated the warnings that developer Niantic includes upon loading Pokémon GO – stay alert, don’t play while driving and respect private property. Kyle Stalla, who manages the “Pokémon GO at EIU” Facebook group, recommends playing in groups when possible and never straying into unfamiliar territory at night.

“I would also suggest what I do when heading into populated areas or crossing streets and take your eyes off the phone,” Stalla said.

Keep in mind that your phone will vibrate when a Pokémon is nearby, meaning you should not stare at it in search of the digital critters.

A quick glance down every few steps should be enough to put your location in perspective.

Pokémon aren’t the only features you’ll likely be on the lookout for, though. When out and about, make every attempt to familiarize yourself with the locations of the supply-spewing Pokéstops around you.

Don’t let the app guide you to the tower-esque blue map markers; instead, pocket your phone and look for the landmarks they correspond to – the ROTC sign outside of Klehm Hall, the clock tower south of Booth Library and at least half a dozen abstract sculptures down 7th Street.

You can turn Pokémon GO into a scavenger hunt while remaining alert and acquainting yourself with your surroundings in the process. Keep yourself safe, and don’t forget to catch ‘em all.

Mallory Kutnick can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]