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Louisville Cemetery Wants No Part In Pokémon Go

Courtesy Jonathan Keith

Pokémon Go players are overwhelming a small Louisville cemetery on Dixie Highway, prompting police to start pressing charges against some of the gamers.

Bethany Memorial Cemetery is a Pokémon hot spot where players have been flocking to since the app’s release on July 6. The game allows smartphone users to track and capture Pokémon in real life. As NPR reported this week, it's kind of like a fantasy version of Google Maps. Owner Jonathan Keith said on Thursday morning alone, there were about about 30 cars at the cemetery between 2 and 3 a.m. 

The increased traffic is tearing up the cemetery’s narrow roads. Keith said gamers are driving off the roads and onto the grass to get around other cars. That, combined with this week’s rain, is causing a mess for the cemetery’s workers who spent Wednesday filling potholes and fixing the damaged blacktop.

Except for a "few bad apples," Keith said for the most part, the gamers visiting the cemetery have been nice.

“It’s just you get the groups that don’t care and drive wherever they want to," he said. "When I stop them and say, ‘this is a private cemetery,’ they smart off to me. It’s a sad situation.”

Niantic, the app’s developer, has not released details on how the app places the Pokémon, but University of Louisville computer science and engineering instructor Michael Losavio said it’s most likely a computer-run program. 

Losavio said since these areas, called PokéStops, often form around places like churches or monuments, the hotspots in cemeteries might be a technical glitch.  

“In places where you have imagery of a statuary at the site or a mausoleum, which in some ways is similar to maybe a church, then if it’s purely done by a machine or machine-human interface those areas would be targeted,” said Losavio. “Now, whether they are intentionally targeted within a cemetery, I don’t know.“

Now Keith said he and his lawyers are working to get the PokéStops in his cemetery removed.

“We’re emailing [Pokémon] and trying to figure out what to do, but there’s no response," he said. "We’re really lost. We understand we own the property, so it’s private. But you know with Pokémon being so big, I guess they could care less about us.”

Louisville’s cemeteries aren’t the only locations with unwanted Pokémon. Holocaust Museum Communications Director Andrew Hollinger told The Washington Post the museum is requesting that its PokéStops be removed. Arlington National Cemetery issued a statement on Twitter saying playing Pokémon Go is not “appropriate decorum on the grounds,” and asked visitors to refrain from using the app.

“It’s a neat game,” Keith said. ‘I have nothing against it because I think it’s bringing families together and it’s bringing people outside their house, but a cemetery is not an arcade.” 

After this story was published, WFPL heard from a handful of Pokémon Go enthusiasts who said that the PokéStops are based on another game developed by Niantic called Ingress. They said the Pokémon show up in areas of large cellular data usage -- including apartment complexes, retail locations, amusement parks and even cemeteries.

As previously reported, Niantic, however, has not released details on how the app places the Pokémon.

This story has been updated. 

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