Local Officials Discuss Pros, Cons of Pokémon Go at #MACoCon

imgresThe opportunities and challenges that Pokémon Go presents to local governments inspired a spirited discussion at #MACoCon. The “Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Pokémon Go and the public” panel addressed the pros and cons of the megahit smartphone application.

Only one month after its launch, Pokémon Go is still creating a buzz across Maryland. Melissa Joseph Muntz, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for “Visit Frederick,” says more people have downloaded Pokémon Go than Google Maps. Muntz added that “millennial visitors are actually willing to change their travel plans based on where Pokémon Go is popular.”

Muntz spoke about how counties can utilize the game to boost tourism. “It’s encouraging people to get outside, to visit historic sites that they’ve never seen before.” Mike Riley, Director M-NCPPC – Montgomery Parks, said county parks have seen an uptick in foot traffic, but that many Pokémon Go players seem more interested in catching digital monsters than taking in their surroundings.

Riley added, “The kids are getting outside. They are exercising. They are socializing. So now that we have the kids out there, we are focused on how to make sure their eyes are open to the other opportunities they can benefit from visiting the parks.”

Major Kenneth Calvert of the University of Maryland Police Department talked about the challenges the game presents to law enforcement and public safety. According to Major Calvert, “What happens to people when they play the game is that they lose situational awareness. They become prey for these people who are looking for fast cash, and an iPhone is a fast cash these days, so that’s the challenge for us.” Major Calvert advised players to travel in groups and remain aware of their surroundings at all times.

The session was moderated by Talbot County Councilwoman Laura Price.

The 2016 MACo Summer Conference was held August 17-20 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year the conference theme was “Cyber Solutions: Counties in the Digital Age.”