A series of muggings and assaults have taken place across South Yorkshire involving people playing new mobile phone craze Pokemon Go.
In just one week, police were called to seven separate incidents involving people playing the game, which involves trying to catch a variety of virtual cartoon characters by searching for them in real-life settings.
A Freedom of Information request revealed three street robberies have taken place – with one victim being punched in the face as their phone was taken.
In another incident, one player was assaulted after being accused of ‘staring’ at his attacker while on the game.
Police have also been called out to two incidents where Pokemon players were reported to be causing a nuisance.
Officers were called after an unnamed local park could not be locked up for the night as there were ‘a large number of people still playing Pokemon’ in the grounds on July 21.
And a resident reported that ‘numerous people’ had turned up outside their house after ‘someone placed a Pokemon on the drive’ on July 14.
South Yorkshire Police were called again on July 15 after a member of the public raised the alarm about a couple of suspicious vehicles.
But a police spokesman said: “This turned out to be individuals playing Pokemon.”
The most serious incident occurred on July 17 when someone walking down the street playing Pokemon was punched and had their phone taken by three unknown assailants.
Another player had their phone stolen in the street as they were playing the game as ‘an unknown individual ran up and snatched the phone from caller’s hand’ on July 18.
And on July 19, police said a number of people had been out playing the game when a man accused them of staring at him and then assaulted one of them.
Two days after that, a group of Pokemon players were approached by a number of people who demanded they hand over their phones – leading to a struggle in which one of the people playing the game was ‘slightly injured’.
Pokemon Go has become hugely popular since being officially launched in the UK last month.
More than 4,000 people are members of a Facebook group for Sheffield Pokemon Go players, while hundreds of people are expected to attend a bar crawl to play the game around the city this weekend.
Supt Simon Verrall said: “While we don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, I want to ask people to be careful when playing the game and using their phone in public.
“When out and about, be aware of your surroundings and what’s going on around you, and always make sure someone knows where you are going or knows where to find you, and try to stick to public places when playing the game if possible.
“In particular for young people, it would be advisable to go out with friends or play the game in pairs rather than alone, and I’d also ask parents to please be mindful and to make sure you know where your child is.”
Star reader Sandra Davies said on Facebook: “One of my younger workmates was locked in Rother Valley Country Park with a couple of his friends, hunting Pokemon.
“Security refused to let them out again until the next morning, so the police had to be called to get security to release them. They finally got let out of the park at 1:50am.”