There’s been a rash of creepy clown sightings across the country, and now, police departments are cracking down.
The clowns were first reported in Greenville, South Carolina, where several children told authorities that a group of clowns offered them money to follow them into the woods. The suspects haven’t been found.
Since then, the problem has gone national.
Clowns have been arrested in Minnesota, Texas, and Pennsylvania, among other places around the country. While dressing up as a clown isn’t illegal, many were arrested on charges of harassment and making “terroristic threats” on social media.
In a particularly disturbing incident, police arrested a 15-year-old girl in Hopkins, Minnesota — with charges pending — for allegedly creating a Facebook account for “Kroacky Clown” and sending threats.
Now, police departments all over the country are responding.
After multiple clowns were spotted around town in Orono, Maine on Monday night, police released a statement that “if someone wants to do this to purposely scare people, we will handle them accordingly.”
The Lake County, Ohio Sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook on Wednesday that the clown stories are “beginning to create alarm” among school children. The Facebook post states that dressing up as a “scary clown” as a prank can be viewed as unlawful and can carry “severe repercussions.”
And the Roselle Park Police department in New Jersey wrote a warning on Thursday telling parents not to let their teenage children dress as clowns. The post warns of possible “exposure to criminal prosecution and civil liability” for “suspicious clown behavior” in public.
Even John Miller, the Intelligence and Counterterrorism Deputy Commissioner for the NYPD, was forced to address the clowns, reports The New York Daily News.
“Don’t believe the hype and don’t be afraid of the clowns,” Miller said. “There have been attempts to make threats, over social media, involving clowns in New York City. We’re tracking them. We’re tracing them. But our people that deal in the threat world every day and assess these threats have found none of these to be credible.”
Whether or not the clowns are truly threatening, or just a bizarre social media trend, remains to be seen.