Police departments in parts of Idaho are now investigating claims of people dressed as “creepy clowns,” as the online prank reaches this part of the country.
The Nampa Police Department has posted on Facebook that it is aware of social media posts “regarding clowns in Nampa.” NPD asked that residents not add to the issue by seeking out the clowns and said the department is “taking precautions.”
NPD Sgt. Rob Wiggins said the department has received calls from several residents claiming to have seen individuals dressed as clowns and, in one case, allegedly carrying a machete.
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“By the time officers get to the location, the clowns are gone,” Wiggins said of the reports. He said in one instance, officers found children wearing face paint and carrying balloons.
Sightings of “creepy clowns” have been reported across the country in recent weeks, many of them fake. Still, Wiggins said, NPD will treat the reports “as seriously as anything else we receive.”
“If residents do happen to run across somebody dressed as a clown and they have a weapon — or they’re not sure if it’s real or not — call us, and we’ll deal with that,” he said. “If they’re just a person walking down the street with a clown costume, there’s not much we can do.”
Wiggins said he expects “copycats, for lack of a better term,” thanks to the widespread reports and social media frenzy.
Local reports include photos of a brightly colored van which one Facebook user captioned “klown car in Kuna,” claiming to have seen several people dressed as clowns in the van. The post has been shared over 400 times.
The (Twin Falls) Times-News reports similar claims in Wendell, including an alleged anonymous text to a teenager warning the high schooler that the clown would be coming to the teen’s school.
In North Idaho, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office has issued several press releases on similar claims of harassment via Facebook.
“The harassment included Facebook messages threatening to exhibit stalking behavior and violence,” said one release, dated Sept. 30. “Upon further investigation, deputies found many other instances of the exact same harassing behavior occurring all over the country. These instances all involve fake Facebook pages belonging to people dressed or identifying themselves as clowns and making very disturbing threats involving stalking and violence.”
SCSO said it takes the threats seriously and will continue to work on the cases. In another Sept. 30 release, the sheriff’s office said it had received “unfounded” reports of a possible clown sighting in Kellogg.
Police across the country have expressed frustrations over chasing down the pranks and urged people to avoid feeding into the frenzy via social media.
Though one man dressed as a clown was arrested in Kentucky last week — wearing a mask is against city ordinance and the perpetrator had an outstanding warrant for his arrest — it seems the majority of the creepy clown fervor is largely fueled by rumor.