New York has banned sex offenders on parole from playing Pokemon Go
AUGUST 3, 20167:04PM
New York is enforcing a new rule to keep child sex offenders on parole from reoffending. Should Australia follow suit?
AUGUST 3, 2016
NEW YORK is implementing a ban to stop registered sex offenders on parole from playing Pokemon Go, over concerns the augmented reality game could help sexual predators lure and take advantage of young children.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to stop the state’s 3000 sex offenders on parole from playing Pokemon Go and similar reality games.
“As technology evolves, we must ensure these advances don’t become new avenues for dangerous predators to prey on new victims,” Cuomo said.
The Democratic Governor has asked Pokemon Go developer Niantic Inc to cross-reference a list of sex offenders provided by the state with its list of players, as well as requesting they remove ‘Pokespots’ near offenders’ homes.
Niantic did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
It’s understood that for any convicted offender to be found playing the game will be deemed a violation of their parole.
JUST HOW DANGEROUS IS POKEMON GO?
The GPS-based game is mighty popular, and explains all those clumps of people you see walking the streets, glued to their smartphones.
Just yesterday, a woman in West Melbourne was killed in a hit and run while playing the addictive game.
But it’s not just road safety that has authorities worried.
The Australian police force has expressed concern over children playing the augmented-reality game since its launch last month.
They warned paedophiles can use the smartphone game to lure children into public spaces like parks, buildings and public toilets.
The game allows users to set up lure modules, which draw other players to the area you’ve set to lure them to.
Last week, police officers told The Daily Telegraph it’s vital for parents to keep an eye on kids hunting Pokemon in public spots.
Queensland Police Detective Inspector Jon Rouse said it was “only a matter of time’’ before paedophiles targeted young Pokemon Go players.
“It could be used the wrong way by people who have a sexual interest in children. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that someone could set up a lure on Pokemon Go just to watch who turns up,” he said.
Last month, a convicted child sex offender in Indiana was found playing the game with a teenage boy outside a courthouse.
Randy Zuick, 41, had been forbidden from contacting minors as part of his release for molesting a young girl.
His contact with the 16-year-old boy was a violation of his parole.
Randy Zuick, 41, was caught playing Pokemon Go with an underage boy outside a courthouse, and was taken into
In an informal investigation conducted last week, New York lawmakers took a list of 100 registered sex offenders across the city and compared it to ‘Pokespots’ in the area — locations where Pokemon Go players could go and collect virtual items.
In 59 cases, those locations were within half a block of offenders’ homes, and 57 Pokemon were found near the offenders’ home.
SHOULD AUSTRALIA FOLLOW SUIT?
According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, there were 5581 recorded cases of sexual abuse against children in Australia last year, making up 14 per cent of all child abuse cases.
This does not include cases that go unreported.
Geoff Holland, a barrister and University of Technology lecturer who specialises in constitutional law, told news.com.au that a legal ban could certainly be implemented in Australia.
But he raised a number of issues with doing so.
“My thoughts are focused on the effectiveness,” he said. “One of my real concerns is that putting a focus on people who have been convicted of such offences tends to blind the community to where some of the other risks are. It may take focus away from where we should be looking.”
He pointed out that the majority of sex crimes against children are committed by a family member or trusted friend, as opposed to a stranger.
A 2013 ABC investigation into child abuse in Australia said that in 70 to 80 per cent of all child sex abuse cases, there is a familial relationship between the child victim and the offender.
Mr Holland said the other main issue was compliance. “How can you ensure that the game’s manufacturers are going to comply, by first removing the sex offenders that they have been notified of, and then continuing to enforce it?” he said.
“While a move like this would work in the US, it’s difficult to see whether there’s any way of enforcing it when the company’s not based in Australia.”
He pointed out that there are already existing restrictions on sex offenders in Australia, which includes tightening the definition of what constitutes contact with children to include social media.
“It’s an additional burden on law enforcement,” he said. “One that may well be justified for a sex offender, but I do think this is a bit of a kneejerk response.
“It appears to be a bit of a thought bubble.”
Lenore Skenazy, a controversial American author and TV show host, said New York’s decision to ban convicted sex offenders from using Pokemon Go is merely a case of “Fear-Pokemongering”.
She suggested Mr Cuomo was using this to get people’s votes, saying the decision was based on discredited ideas.
She likewise noted that most instances of child abuse are instigated by family members, but went on to claim “actual registered sex offenders have a recidivism rate that is shockingly low”.
According to experts, this is not true. At least, not in Australia.
Last year, the NSW Minister for Justice and Police Troy Grant told the ABC that up to 17 per cent of child sex offenders released from prison were likely to reoffend within just two years.
According to a report on the psychology of paedophiles by forensic criminology expert Xanthe Mallett, those who truly believe they are not harming children through sexual contact are highly unlikely to be rehabilitated.
The report said some offenders genuinely can’t understand why their actions are deemed socially unacceptable.
“When it comes to preferential — or fixated — child sex offenders, some don’t even realise what they are doing is wrong. They genuinely believe they are showing the children “love”.”
Therefore, it’s not unreasonable to suggest child sex offenders out on parole could target new victims.
All that said, there is yet to be an actual case of Pokemon Go-instigated child abuse recorded in the media.
At this stage, it would be a purely preventative measure.