Pokemon Go craze still going strong all over Harford County

Never play while driving, the Harford Emergency Service Department warned

As the Pokemon Go craze continues in Harford County and elsewhere, residents and visitors report a steady stream of people searching for invisible monsters everywhere from Joppatowne to Havre de Grace and northern Harford, while officials continue reminding them to be safe.

Businesses, libraries, local landmarks, parks, gaming stores and even out-of-the-way private properties like graveyards popped up in the game, which uses "augmented reality" to get players to find the monsters and play with them throughout the real world.

Churches also were frequently "PokeStops," locations where players could pick up valuable items for the game. Players helped create hubs for the game in places like the Havre de Grace Promenade and downtown Bel Air by dropping Lures to attract the monsters around PokeStops and Pokemon "gyms," used to train and battle the invisible monsters by advanced players who competed in teams to "control" the gyms.

A steady procession of people of all ages, each with eyes glued to their cellphones, continued up and down North Main Street in Bel Air, a major hot spot in the game.

Joppatowne's Tammy Ridgley and Chris Decker said they went to Joppatowne's Mariner Point Park on Saturday night, where there were about 70 people playing Pokemon Go, including "a cop."

Ridgley was at Wegmans in Abingdon Tuesday night and showed a gym she was about to take over, based around a dairy cow sculpture at the Wegmans.

The sign outside Birotecca restaurant on Route 1 between Bel Air and Fallston reads: "2 Pokestops, come in and catch em all."

Cautions abounded regarding distractions. The fact that monsters could pop up anywhere, any time, also tempts people to play while driving.

"Be safe if trying to catch them all," the Harford County Department of Emergency Services posted on its Facebook page earlier this week. "While it is great to be out and explore our beautiful county and enjoy this weather, please use caution and common sense while playing this game."

Among safety tips and reminders from Emergency Services are: "Watch the road. Do not look at your phone while crossing the street. Set limits on where your kids can go. Remind your kids about stranger-danger. Be aware of your surroundings. Don't trespass on private property.

"And, never play while driving."

Aberdeen Proving Ground made similar safety suggestions regarding the game, and, "to my knowledge, we have not had anyone try to access post simply to chase a Pokemon," spokesperson Heather Roelker said via email Thursday.

"Because safety and security of our workforce and residents is paramount, we are encouraging anyone who plays to do so safely," Roelker wrote. "Players must follow personal phone and photo regulations on post and ensure they do not chase Pokemon into controlled or restricted areas, office buildings or homes on base."

While people have been seen out and about in Havre de Grace, glued to their smartphones, city police officers have not had any incidents related to the game as of late Thursday afternoon.

"We've had no incidents related to the newest smartphone craze," Ofc. Jeff Gilpin, spokesperson for the Havre de Grace Police Department, said.

Sgt. Will Reiber, spokesperson for the Aberdeen Police Department, said there haven't been any negative incidents in his city, but Aberdeen city leaders have noticed local families hunting for Pokemon characters together at locations around the city.

"It's really been an asset in bringing folks together," Reiber said.

He also urged people to be aware of their surroundings while out walking and trying to capture another Pokemon.

Aegis staff member David Anderson contributed to this report.

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