Grandma playing Ingress stopped by cops

I was out early this morning. There were some unclaimed Ingress portals on my map and I wanted to get to them first, since that’s the easiest way for a solo player to rack up some points.

And I did. Five portals altogether. Then I started to work my way back home, pausing wherever I could do a drive-by hack, upgrade someone else’s resonators, etc. When I stopped at one of the last enemy portals, I noticed its resos were down about 50%. It was still heavily defended and a higher level, but I couldn’t resist. I decided to try to take it down. It had been blue forever (4 or 5 days at least) and I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

My inventory was overflowing. I had what I needed. But it was going to take a lot of time to knock it down at the rate of just a few percentage points per attack. I sat there with the car idling and the a/c on and whacked away at it. I moved around several times to get closer to the resonators — U-turns, up to the corner and back down on the other side of the street, always pulling well to the side so as not to obstruct traffic. Normally it’s a very quiet intersection, but today there were several city trucks nearby with work crews mowing or pushing rocks around or something. I must have been there at least half an hour. But hey, that’s one of my few advantages in Ingress. I have all the time in the world.

And finally I got it. I beat it down and turned it green. Sweet. Well, stupid, actually. I burned through a ton of inventory. It will take a lot of farming to restock. But again, I’ve got time …

I swung by Taco Bell for some celebratory tacos and headed for home feeling quite pleased with myself. But as I neared the last corner into my neighborhood, I noticed a police car behind me, lights flashing. D’oh!

I turned onto my street and pulled over immediately; he pulled in behind me. Had to be something like a burned out taillight. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong.

“We got a report of suspicious activity … license number 123-ABC … intersection Baker Drive … ”

That was the intersection where I’d been. Of course I had looked suspicious! I’d have reported me if I’d seen me hanging around like that. I hadn’t gotten in anyone’s way, hadn’t done anything at all illegal. But still, those city crews were there the whole time; they’d have wondered what I was doing.

Oh this is going to be interesting …

“Officer, I was playing this game … ”

And to his everlasting credit, he didn’t laugh. He remained polite, respectful, and as I kept talking, interested. He asked to see the app on my phone and I showed him, trying to explain briefly what the game involved. He’d not heard of Ingress and I explained that he and his colleagues might encounter other players in the area, and the sort of places where they might be seen, etc.

I hope the encounter will benefit all concerned. I’d not been playing long when I began reading about players encountering police and how to behave and not behave when approached. Considering a lot of players are out after dark, especially in the winter, and are likely to appear to be loitering, etc., it was all good advice. I did do a double take when I got to the part about what to do if you’re carrying a gun …. Gaming has gone too far when one feels the need to carry a gun in order to play.

Of course it never occurred to me when I started playing this game that I’d be one of the players stopped by the police. But it proved to be a pleasant, interesting conversation. No tickets, warnings, or anything like that. Just a friendly chat.

As the officer was walking back toward his car, I looked back and noticed for the first time that a second squad car had pulled up while we were talking. I said something about it and laughed that I should have taken a picture. He laughed and pointed out that no, actually there were two more squad cars back there! A total of three cop cars lined up behind Grandma, the first one with its lights still flashing!

I can’t imagine what the neighbors must have thought.





Note, June 2, 2016: In March an article entitled “The game ‘Pokémon GO’ is based on has led to some weird problems for its players” appeared on Tech Insider. It mentions this post and refers to me as a “self-described ‘grandma,'” implying, it seems to me, that I might not have been truthful about being a grandmother (aka “old”).

Then in concluding the author says, “It’s worth noting that none of these reports have been independently verified, and so far no one seems to have been roughed up or arrested. But ‘Ingress’ is, frankly, a niche game for adventurous tech nerds, not a group known for being especially mistreated or misunderstood by American police.” I got the feeling he thinks I and others have made up our stories about encounters with police. What proof does he want for independent verification? Official police reports? Sworn testimony from eye witnesses? He displays his ignorance with his assumption that it’s a “niche game” played only by “adventurous tech nerds.” I’ve personally known of players from age 13 up to my age (73); some are “tech nerds” and some are not. (Sorry, I’ve no independent verification for that statement.)

Just thought I’d mention this for the benefit of those few who might follow a link to this post.


44 thoughts on “Grandma playing Ingress stopped by cops

  1. OMG PT, that’s hilarious! Did someone think Grandma was a terrorist, or casing a place for a robbery? I can’t wait to read what your neighbors had to say! 😆

    1. Fortunately this happened up in the next block, where I don’t know anyone. But I’m sure there were some curious people up there. Players have been arrested, but they were loitering around police stations. Stuff like that. The intersection where I was was practically out in the country. Fields along one side of the road, homes on the other. Almost a dead end.

      1. In that short conversation my son and I had about Ingress, he made it seem like I’d be spending a lot of time sight seeing in the downtown area, so I guess I pictured you driving around town hall, office buildings, and the like. What in the world was someone worried about you doing out in the sticks? Did they think you were a little old lady that had lost her way? And why have an Ingress target of interest out the there, when the majority of the players probably live in more urban areas?

      2. Said target is near the outer edge of our “suburban sprawl.” I stick to the ‘burbs and leave downtown Denver to those who work there or really want to go there. I’m not at all familiar with it and prefer to avoid the traffic, parking problems, etc. But your son is correct. Downtown is the truly target-rich environment, probably in all cities. The game launched with a bunch of public places (post offices, historical markers and buildings, etc.) already designated. But players can submit places for consideration. The result is ample targets in the suburbs. Statues, churches, monuments, memorials, Masonic lodges, libraries, skate parks, dog parks, playgrounds, etc. Have your son show you the map and see what portals are already in your area. If you need more, submit suggestions. Takes about two weeks for approval or rejection.

    1. I think of it as sort of like virtual geocaching or maybe orienteering and have no doubt it will replace geocaching for a lot of people. You don’t have to find little hidden containers (or worry about someone taking them) and you don’t have leave tokens or anything. The capturing of portals has been likened to “capture the flag.” There’s a lot more to it than that, of course. But it’s a lot of fun.

    1. Yep, I use ST. I’ve seen in forums that people think ST starts throttling users at about 2 GB a month, despite their “unlimited” claims, and I keep an eye on my usage. To date I haven’t even come close to that. But I don’t stream music or videos or anything like that. Thx for the tip, though. I try to keep an eye on what they’re doing.

      1. Having never had a cell phone that allowed internet access, those data numbers – and lots of other “smart” related things, mean very little to me. Which, of course, is why I’m so hesitant to jump on that wagon…

      2. As you’ll recall, I only got mine last August (“Grandma gets another smartphone“). To me it’s more like a little computer. I don’t think I’ve ever made a call on it. I’ve only sent one or two text messages. I don’t play music or watch videos. I rarely browse the web or check my email. I don’t tweet. I’ve used it occasionally for navigation but I’m still more used to using my old Garmin for that. It’s handy to have all my contacts on it for reference. And my calendar. Time, temp, weather forecast. Assorted small word games, solitaire, etc. It was mostly just for emergency use — until I started playing Ingress. (I did upgrade to a larger screen phone when I started playing.)

    1. LOL. I’ve been stopped by police about three times in my whole life. To have had three cop cars behind me on a single stop — because I was playing a game — is just hilarious. I can say that now, of course, because they didn’t show up and arrest me at the scene of the “crime.”

    1. Looking back, I really wish I’d been quick witted enough to jump out of the car and get a picture of the entire scene. But my brain tends to freeze when a cop stops me.

  2. haha. Thanks for sharing your funny story. In regards to your comment about guns. I don’t think people feel the need to carry a gun to play the game. There are many people who carry a gun that might also enjoy playing ingress.

    1. That’s an important distinction and one I should have been careful to make. I might have been thinking about the dangers of playing alone in questionable surroundings, something I’m always cautious about.

  3. My husband and I play in Central Florida. He plays really early in the AM (like 3 AM) before going to work and, on weekends, I play then, too. Anyhow…to date we have been stopped three times, twice by the police and once by a group of firemen who were curious as to why we were hanging around outside their fire station. In all three instances we offered up our ID, tried to explain what we were doing, and assured them that they could find info about the game on-line. (Since then we have made a few copies of the handout for police that is available on line). All of the guys who stopped us looked a little confused as to why we would want to spend our time on something with no tangible reward. One police stop resulted in our being “reminded” that the park we were in closed at dusk…so could we please move on. Another asked US if WE had noticed any suspicious activity (?) But now, at least at the fire station, they mostly just wave when they see either of us out playing!

    1. I read somewhere that it helps to mention it’s a worldwide Google game (I neglected to do that). And of course it’s easy enough to look up online. The officer who stopped me just made sure he had “Ingress” spelled correctly; I’m sure he intended to look it up. There’s a fire station near here with two portals in their parking lot. I’ve been meaning to go inside and explain to them why so many people keep swinging through there — but surely by now someone has already done that.

      Our parks are open till 11 pm, far too late, IMHO, for honest folks to be hanging around in a park, especially now that we’re back to standard time and with winter coming on.

  4. I had a very similar situation. I got off work at 1AM and on the way home I saw all these grey and hurting portals. Normally these are all L8 portals for the wrong team and as a new player (I think I was still L2) there was no way I was going to miss the chance. An hour later of walking around, driving around, taking hits and going back for more XP, etc and then all a sudden I had the reds and blues behind me.

    I tried to explain what I was doing and it was just game but he wasn’t buying it when a second copper showed up. They talk and the next thing I know the second copper leans over and asks what level I was at it, I told him and he replies with “I finally got to L8, keep playing but just be careful” and then they both left.

    1. Lucky for you the second guy turned up. You’d think by now most of them would know about the game. Still, since I got stopped, I’ve passed on several hacking opportunities because there were cops in the area. I’d prefer not to get stopped again. The next guy might not be as nice as the first one was.

  5. Geocaching, had a date with capture the flag, and somewhere spy vs spy snuck in and had themselves a strange digital nightmare baby……..or something like that. I’m still trying to come up with a solid explanation that takes less than 40 minutes.

    1. I’ve heard it said that Google dreamed it up as a way to gather data for future pedestrian or tourist maps of interesting locations. (Nothing like getting us to do their work for them for free.) Certainly sounds plausible. Admittedly it’s not easy to explain the game to someone who has never seen it, but your explanation is as good as any I’ve seen.

    1. Because half of them were out in a rugged, unmowed field where I might easily have fallen (71 years old), because it was hot and I was tired, because I’m afraid of snakes, and because I was afraid to be wandering around alone out there in the boonies with a bunch of grubby looking men nearby.

    1. Tell who? The cops? Because they’re cops and they asked. The neighbors? I don’t know anybody up where I was stopped. But if those next door to me happened to ask, I’d tell them. Concerned neighbors would worry about a trio of cop cars in the neighborhood.

  6. Had a similar incident with a bank manager. he came outside while I was destroying a portal and he asked if I was playing some sort of game, because he had seen others in front of the bank doing something similar. I just let him know what the game was and it’s purpose, and that the target was the piece of artwork in front of the bank. He thanked me and went back inside.

    1. Most people, I imagine, are nice about it and just curious. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen a lot more often. The game has exploded in this area in the last two years. The number of portals has gotten ridiculously dense, and there’s been almost a total turnover in players. Unfortunately, the Resistance seems to dominate most of the time now.

  7. How about don’t drive and play Ingress? Whether slowing down or “pausing” you increase the chance for a fatal accident for you or someone else. If you are focused on the game, you aren’t focused on the road. Even “there aren’t any other cars around” is no justification for endangering the lives and property of people for a game.

    1. Excellent advice and obvious to all, I hope. I never drove while playing or played while driving. I tended to my driving until I reached my objective, then I pulled over and parked safely and legally, before using my phone to play the game. In the situation I described above there were no other cars around but I still pulled completely off the road, onto the shoulder or into a legal parking position before stopping. I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear.

      1. 🙂 I’m glad you park and play safely. I have nor should anyone have a problem with that. I am trying to get people to talk about driving while playing. A lot of people do it. I hope Niantic makes driving and playing impossible soon. Distracted driving death and injuries are trending up. Now take this smurfs! -fires xmp-

      2. Aha. Hello, fellow kermit!

        I know a few folks who play in teams where one person drives and the other does the playing/hacking/farming on the fly. But it’s not the most effective way to get the job done.

        Niantic may well have had driving-while-playing in mind when they introduced ultrastrikes, which require standing directly on one’s target. There may be other things, too. I haven’t played much for more than a year.

      3. Hello there fellow frogs! I’ve noticed so much craziness since Pokemon GO! was introduced and people are walking off cliffs and driving into lakes lemming style. I had never heard so much hype or about so many horrors when I first started with Ingress 2 years ago. No one I knew even understood the concepts of Ingress or why we wanted to light up the world in greens and blues. However, capturing and battling sentient “pocket monsters” ( makes sense?
        I participated in my first anomaly yesterday in downtown Denver and meet so many fantastic people. They were wonderfully crazy, really loved the game, flew in from all over the country for the 1day event (plus mission day today) and even tuned in remotely from all over the world to assist their factions with ops and recharges. I’m heading downtown today from the ‘burbs to participate in mission day. However my feet and legs and back are exhausted from the 5+ miles of walking yesterday so I’m going to drive. I won’t stop in the middle of the road to blast a resonator, run a light to recharge are make crazy lane switches to get close enough to hack or check off a waypoint. People driving, biking and walking in downtown Denver are nuts enough without that crazy thrown in to the mix.

        PP if you would like to join me on a mission or takedown of some smurfs and get out walking, I’d love to have the company. 🙂 Enlightened GO!

      4. Hi MommyD! It’s wonderful meeting another local frog. I live out in north Thornton and this area has been so blue for so long, I’ve gotten really depressed. I haven’t played actively for a couple of years, but it’s still depressing. Like you I’m stunned to see all the hoopla over Pokemon Go. Ingress certainly didn’t get that kind of attention. I guess cute little critters are more interesting than portals. Still, we were the pioneers, the groundbreakers.

        I’d be tempted to come out of “Ingress retirement” if I hadn’t been in the mountains all day yesterday. I’m exhausted. Best of luck with the anomaly. I’ll be checking the map looking for big green control areas.

  8. I have spoken with police more since starting this game than the rest of my life combined. I was pulled over twice in small towns because I was acting suspicious, then walking had policeman walk up to me and ask many pointed questions, once they asked if I was trying to rob a sore down the street, I showed him my scanner and told him the green area is where I’ve been the blue I’m not there yet, then they asked me if I’d seen anyone matching my own description.. It was pretty funny but the police I’ve talked to have always been polite and I’ve never get been detained.. None of them had heard of ingress though. I’ve had famers come out to see if I needed helphelp, I’ve had an awful lot of strange looks and accidentally scared a bar tender out of her whits as she was closing… I’ve become paranoid that the other team is watching or closing me.. All together just a really different game than any other, try explaining it sometime to anyone

    1. I’m so lazy and hypercautious that I mostly stick to drive-bys (don’t play much anymore). I sort of cheated myself out of the exercise potential of the game, not to mention some of the more “interesting” experiences you describe. And I’ve experienced the paranoia of thinking I was being followed by the other team. Took a really circuitous route home one day because I was so sure I was being followed — and yet in an urban area with a lot of portals, I’m sure a lot of players drive the same routes.

      Yeah, it can be tough explaining the game to anyone, even if they’re really interested in knowing about it. Tried explaining it to a brother-in-law who seemed really interested in playing and still got only a blank look in return. I think of it as sort of a combo of geocaching and orienteering.

  9. In Australia, this granny was on the way to a ‘farm’ and got lost. Went to the local police station and explained my dilemma. Wanted to meet strangers who I had never met, whose real names I did not know. at night. They thought I was ‘unwise’. Be careful, they said. They rang a phone number they hunted up for the one name I knew, announced it was the police calling and then put me on. Well, I had to identify myself as my game name, and the police looked a bit stunned. They looked the game up on their phone and wished me luck. Grey hair helps. Nice young men, our police.

    1. Hi Carol. I apologize for letting your comment languish for so long.

      You’re right. I think the grey hair helps a lot. Of course, when we start explaining what we’re doing, they probably think we’re suffering a bit of dementia …

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