Police have made an arrest in their hunt for jokers dressed in clown costumes who are leaping out to scare children in a social media-inspired craze.
Clowns feature heavily in horror movies, including Stephen King’s IT and Poltergeist. But the stuff of nightmares has become a reality for terrified schoolchildren.
Northumbria Police is appealing for witnesses or anyone with information to get in touch after they received six separate complaints about pranksters dressed as clowns jumping out from bushes to scare passing children.
One arrest has been made. A young man, alleged to be carrying a bladed article, was arrested in the Blakelaw area of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in relation to one of the clown crimes.
No one has been hurt in any of these incidents but Northumbria Police say those taking part could be committing public order offences as they are causing alarm and distress.
The craze is thought to have been inspired by similar events in the US and could be being organised through social media. Police now say enough is enough.
A Northumbria Police spokesman said while those carrying out these pranks may think they are funny, they are leaving children feeling very distressed.
He added: “Parents of the children affected, and teachers at our local schools are understandably concerned and we are working very closely with them as this is not something we want to see happening in our local community.”
“There has only been a handful of these incidents, which we think have been inspired by a trend in America, but we are keen to stop them before they cause anyone else further distress.
“We are keen to identify those people who are dressing up as clowns so we can speak to them about their conduct and establish whether any criminal offence has taken place.”
Police are now urging people who fall victim to these pranksters to take photos of the clowns so they can identify them, as well as calling them on the non-emergency number 101.
In America, there have been reports of clowns scaring, attacking and chasing people. Residents in Greenville, South Carolina reported suspicious clowns were attempting to lure children into woods and parents were warned not to let their youngsters walk alone at night.
Incidents involving clowns in the US have also been reported in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Kentucky and Pennsylvania with residents reporting scary or suspicious encounters with people dressed in clown costumes.