Pokemon Go hunters capture real thief in New Zealand

People play Pokemon GO in Lillo, Belgium on Aug 20, 2016.
People play Pokemon GO in Lillo, Belgium on Aug 20, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) - Some New Zealand fans of the smartphone game Pokemon Go caught more than they bargained for when they grabbed a thief who broke into a car and held him until the police arrived.

The young people were out hunting virtual cartoon characters in the North Island town of Napier on Wednesday (Aug 31) night, when they heard a car alarm and saw a masked man run past, New Zealand Police said.

"They didn't use Pokeballs to catch him, they just held him till police arrived," the police said in a statement, referring to an online tool used to capture the Pokemons that appear in places such as temples and landmarks where people gather.

A 28-year-old man was arrested and will face theft charges in court on Sept 7, the police said.

Nintendo's Pokemon Go has become an unexpected smash hit, using augmented reality and Google mapping to make animated characters appear in the real world, overlaid on the nearby landscape viewed through players' mobile phone cameras.

The game has also been blamed for injuries and robberies of distracted users in some countries, prompting authorities to warn gamers to play responsibly.

In Napier, the police reminded players their own safety was paramount.

"Capturing little Pokemon monsters isn't just good for the players because in this case it's good for the police too, but we don't want any good Samaritans to get hurt," said Senior Sergeant David Sutherland.