Police issues warnings over ‘Clownpocalypse’
By Ann-Marie Corvin
A clown craze swept along by social media is creating a ‘perception of fear in the community,’ UK police forces have warned.
The craze, which first originated in the US and involves people dressing up as clowns to terrorise adults and children, is getting out of hand, according to various UK police forces who have issued warnings following several UK-based incidents.
Last Wednesday Clacton County High School in Essex kept their students in over lunch after two female students were approached by a pair of clowns in a black van, who asked if they wanted to go to a birthday party.
Other nationwide incidents involving clowns last week included the arrest of a 13-year-old boy brandishing a knife who was dressed as a clown attempting to scare passers by.
The arrest prompted Northumbria police to issue a warning to people attempting to copycat incidents and issued a statement stating that they took this behavior ‘very seriously.’
In Manchester, two people dressed as clowns were seen jumping out of bushes near a shopping centre as people stopped their cars at traffic lights.
According to further reports, residents in Crawley this weekend saw people wearing clown masks ‘lying in wait’ at night and jumping out at both adults and children.
This, at best, mean-spirited and sinister clowning trend is believed to have started in August in Greenville County, South Carolina, where children reported sitings of clowns beckoning them into a nearby forest.
The craze has been spread by social media (hashtag #Clownpocalypse) with tweeters talking circulating rumours about people inventing machette wielding clowns ‘for banter’ and one Facebook page called Bob Johnson (Watford Clowns) threatening to scare Watford children by dressing up as creepy clowns outside school gates.
Several Instagram accounts purporting to belong to clowns have also sprung up in Watford, as well as other areas (see below).
Despite the hysteria, most of the trending #Clownpocalypse social media posts appear to be harmless. Rather than encouraging clowns to terrorise people, the majority of posts are of random pictures of clowns, or outlets for people to express their phobia (known as coulrophobia) of the painted face characters.
There also appear to be lots of small businesses shoehorning clown references and hashtags into their corporate messages in order to drive traffic to their sites.
Nonetheless, Essex police have been keen to point out that there is a darker side to all this clowning around and have issued the following warning:
Essex Police is aware of a number of reports from concerned residents across the county relating to people dressed as clowns, specifically near to schools during opening times.
‘It would appear the intentions of these ‘clowns’ is to scare members of the public however to date there have been no reports of physical threats of harm or violence being caused.
‘There has been huge public interest in these photographs and videos, particularly on social media networking sites which more often than not do not represent accurate reporting. This inaccurate reporting is further fuelling the ‘craze’ and creating a perception of fear in the community.
‘We would also like to warn people who are thinking of being actively involved in this ‘craze’ that in doing so they may commit offences under the Public Order Act 1986 and to be more considerate of the feelings of others, especially young children and the elderly.’