Two reports of “clowning” in Wellington prompted police to issue a warning this week against taking part in the new trend.
“This is a dangerous game and we will not tolerate it in the village,” said Lt. Jeff Shelton on the WPD’s Facebook page. “If you are caught you will be arrested and we will not think it’s funny.”
Clowning refers to the practice of dressing as a clown and acting in a threatening way toward other people.
Police reports and citizen complaints have sprung up all over the country, describing clowns attempting to lure children into wooded areas, jumping out to scare pedestrians, and even staging gruesome attacks on each other.
“There have been a couple of reports but we haven’t spotted anyone or made any arrests,” said Wellington police chief Tim Barfield. “The county has had a couple of reports too.”
Norwalk police received calls last week of four men wearing clown masks and trying to scare people.
In Portsmouth, police were told earlier this month of a clown holding an ax and staring at people as they walked by.
The trend began to pop up in southern states over the summer. A North Carolina woman reported a clown holding a machete trying to lure her into the woods. In Georgia, children say two clowns chased them home from a bus stop.
There have been no reports of physical harm in any of the incidents, but authorities still consider clowning to be a dangerous prank that could have serious consequences.
Barfield referenced videos uploaded to YouTube showing staged attacks by clowns.
“My daughter showed me videos where these people jump out and scare others,” he said. “They’ll act like they’re shooting someone or smashing someone’s head on the ground. Then when they see someone is scared they start chasing them. It’s scary. It wouldn’t be a good situation if someone did that to me.”
He said the act of grabbing someone or brandishing a fake weapon crosses the line of an innocent practical joke.
“It’s not just some kids that wear clown suits,” he said. “It’s a clown suit along with going up to people and acting like they’re attacking them. It’s all just to scare people and it’s not funny.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.