HALLOWELL — Some local Pokémon Go players have taken umbrage at a sign blocking a wooden staircase next to 210 Water St.

The purple sign hanging from a new link of chains says in bright orange capital letters: “PRIVATE PROPERTY – CATCH POKÉMON SOMEWHERE ELSE MORON!!”

It’s not the private property that rankles some players; it’s the insult to their intelligence.

“It was just the verbiage used,” Pokémon Go player Stephen Turcotte said. “We thought it was extremely harsh.”

Turcotte is a member of Pokémon Go Augusta, which has been playing as a group since the GPS-based game by Niantic and Nintendo was released in early July. Players use an app on their smartphones to locate specific sites in the real world where they can catch virtual Pokémon creatures and gain points. The cartoon characters appear and disappear, seemingly at random and at various times of the day. Some sites, known as PokéStops, allow a player to stock up on ammunition in the form of balls that are thrown to catch a character.



Once a player downloads the game on a phone, cartoon characters appear on the phone screen based on what the camera lens picks up, Google Maps and other datasets. The game advises users to “be aware of your surroundings” and warns against playing while driving.

“We understand private property,” Turcotte said. “If they had just posted that, we would have stayed away.”

On the backside of the same property, another sign says, “PRIVATE PROPERTY – STOP PLAYING POKÉMON AND GET A REAL JOB!!”

Using the game app, a purplish Pokémon virtual monster, a Nidoran, can be captured on the stairs.

The property owner, Adam Patterson, who also owns a nearby business, Timeless Treasures, at 140 Water St., said he might be open to changing the signs “if I’m approached properly.” The building at 210 Water St. houses two retail establishments at street level, Studio 201 Tattoo and Editor’s Note, as well as apartments on the upper levels.

Patterson said he posted the signs Saturday because he was frustrated by having to repeatedly tell people that the site is private property from Water Street to the Kennebec riverbank. He has owned the building for about eight years, he said.


“I’m very tired of people trespassing on my property chasing Pokémons,” he said, adding that his tenants, who park at the rear of the building, have had their cars blocked. He said unauthorized people have been on the back deck and on the staircase.

“I’ve approached many people already and asked them to stop, and nobody actually did it,” he said. “What is it exactly they would like from me? Now everybody’s got hurt feelings and now they want me to change my wording on the sign.”

Turcotte, 34, of Augusta, said it’s a misconception that those who play the game don’t have jobs. In the Augusta group, the vast majority hold full-time jobs, he said. However, some of the players, including Turcotte, work night shifts.


Turcotte said the Augusta-based group is hoping to work with Patterson to remove the wording that troubles the group. They’re also considering “a peaceful Pokémon Go gathering down there.”

Turcotte said that as far as the Augusta group knows, none of the members trespassed on Patterson’s property.


“Apparently some people late at night were going up there and tenants felt unsafe,” Turcotte said. “As far as we know, it was no one from our group that did it.”

He also said the group members have been welcomed and assisted by some businesses in Hallowell. “They understand what we’re trying to do,” Turcotte said.

Hallowell police Chief Eric Nason said he had not received any calls about Pokémon Go players trespassing on private property.

“We have not had any problems with them to this point,” Nason said. “Hopefully they just respect people’s property and there shouldn’t be a problem.”

Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin said via email that his bureau – which patrols state buildings and property, including the State House and the Cross State Office Building – has had only “very minor issues” with Pokémon Go players. He described it as “mostly people not paying attention to their surroundings or where they are going (in the real world). No problems as far as people going or trying to go where they would be prohibited, or anything like that, so far.”

Some players can get so caught up in the game they run into problems. Last month a player apparently was struck deliberately by a motorist at an intersection in Bangor.


Elsewhere, the Pokémon Go game takes people to such locations as the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, which sends members to protest at military funerals as part of a fight against homosexuality. It balances that with a PokéStop, a rest-stop equivalent, across the street at Equality House, which works for positive change for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Some high-profile sites, such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., have been removed at their request as PokéStops and locations of Pokémon Go characters.

Locally, Turcotte said the Augusta group occasionally plays in Hallowell and meets frequently at Mill Park in Augusta and at Old Fort Western.

He said the group also notifies the Augusta Police Department of its planned activities at the latter locations “so they have a heads-up and we learn the rules for the area.”

For instance, he said the two sites in Augusta close at sundown.

Turcotte said the group recently got permission to use the University of Maine at Augusta campus. At Colby College in Waterville, some high school summer programs earlier this summer involved Pokémon Go activity, according to Kate Carlisle, Colby’s director of communications.

Deputy Chief Jared Mills, of the Augusta police, said the agency has had about 20 interactions with people playing Pokémon since July 1.

“The overwhelming majority have been positive and just people calling for what appears to be suspicious activity and turning out to be groups in particular areas playing Pokémon,” Mills said via email. “We have had to educate the public who are playing at night sometimes in a cemetery or a park that is closed after hours, but other than that, we have had no issues.”

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