Essex police aren’t happy with local Pokémon Go players in lockdown

“Our community policing team have had cause to speak with a number of different men aged 30+…”

Police in Rochford, near Southend in Essex, have issued – then deleted – a statement criticising local Pokémon Go fans for playing the game during lockdown.

In a now-removed social media post spotted by the Southend Standard this week, Rochford cops criticised those its community officers had found outdoors.

“Whilst patrolling, our community policing team have had cause to speak with a number of different men aged 30+ over the last week, who seemed to feel it is acceptable to attend certain public places within the district, to hunt Pokémon.

“Honestly, yes, you did read that correctly.

“If that happens to be someone you know, please remind them of the following information shared by our partners at Rochford District Council.”

In a follow-up article, Southend Standard revisited the topic, and noted that local residents had said playing the game was “exercising, just with a phone in their hands”.

Rochford police have now taken down the post, which attracted replies from people saying that walking counted as exercise as long as those playing the game were not also using it to meet other people or break lockdown restrictions.

Over on top Pokémon Go reddit TheSilphRoad, there has been much discussion of the topic over the past few weeks, while many countries worldwide are in lockdown at present.

“Technically you are allowed outside to ‘exercise’ but you are not allowed outside for ‘recreation’,” one UK fan wrote. “The guidance is, as usual, a bit vague but if you are standing around for more than a couple of minutes you are breaking the law. In practice, of course, you should be OK. But, if there are more than two of you standing still, expect grief.”

“Frontline worker’s family here from UK,” another fan wrote. “We have Covid marshalls patrolling in my area which [is] suburban residential. I feel this lockdown will be marshalled more strictly than the previous ones, and even if it isn’t as responsible citizens it is our duty to follow rules as much as possible. Yes we can go out for exercise but with narrow paths one has to be careful. I love PoGo and was so so looking forward to the Kanto event and Machop community day. Now not sure I should go out to play. A doc working in intensive care said something on TV that resonated with me, ‘if we don’t follow rules we have blood on our hands’.”

An Essex police spokesperson said it had responded to concerns of people “making non-essential journeys in the Rochford area last week.

“The tweet was issued in good faith but was later deleted to ensure the appropriate level of seriousness when sharing crucial partnership and safety messages about the pandemic.”

When announcing recent in-game events, Pokémon Go maker Niantic has advised players to “please be aware of your surroundings and follow guidelines from local health authorities when playing”.