Days after its release, Pokemon Go has become a fast-moving phenomenon, drawing flash mob-like crowds searching neighborhoods, parks and urban streets for imaginary characters on their smartphones.
Three people were robbed at gunpoint in Parkville while playing Pokemon Go, the smartphone game that is sweeping the nation, Baltimore County police say.
Police released details of the incident on Tuesday as they urged players to pay attention to their surroundings while participating in the viral game.
In the game, players visit local landmarks to try to capture Pokemon creatures. County police said that just after midnight last Thursday, the game directed three players to an area of Jasper Lane near an entrance to Belmont Park.
There, two suspects approached them, and one of them displayed a handgun, police said. The suspects took the victims' cell phones and money, and then fled. No one was injured.
Cpl. John Wachter, a county police spokesman, said investigators are still trying to determine whether the people were targeted because they were playing Pokemon Go.
"They could have just crossed paths with someone who took the opportunity to rob them," he said.
Wachter said police are concerned that people who are glued to their phones could put themselves at risk.
"The game itself is harmless," Wachter said. "A lot of people have fun with it. But what concerns us is a lot of the same kinds of things that concern us with texting ...You don't want to pay so much attention to the game that you put yourself into a dangerous situation."
The police department is urging Pokemon Go players to stay in groups while playing the game and to avoid secluded areas. They also advised players to stay in well-lit areas at night and asked people not to enter private property without permission of the owner.
Wachter urged people to trust their instincts if they become uncomfortable with their surroundings while playing the game.