With Creepy Clown Sightings on the Rise, Cops Are Cracking Down on Hoaxes Nationwide | NBC Chicago
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With Creepy Clown Sightings on the Rise, Cops Are Cracking Down on Hoaxes Nationwide

Police say that many of the supposed sightings and threats aren't credible, but nevertheless warn people to be aware

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Fair Lawn Police Department
    The clown masks allegedly used by two teens who police say terrorized other drivers on the road in New Jersey early Wednesday morning. Police across the country are making arrests in clown sightings that have been found out as hoaxes.

    When it comes to reports of creeps in red noses, law enforcement across the U.S. hasn't been clowning around.

    From the Atlantic to the Pacific, cops have been making arrests as threats of creepy clowns stalking schools and towns have been unmasked as hoaxes and pranks.

    New Jersey has had five arrests in the past three days.

    Three teens were arrested Wednesday, NBC New York reported, including a 12-year-old girl who allegedly made a social media threat against her intermediate school in Toms River; police in South Toms River said a 14-year-old confessed to falsely telling her mother a clown had chased her on her way to school. Police in Paramus said two other teenagers were hanging out of a car window with clown masks on, and one was found with marijuana and a knife.

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    In New York, a creepy clown intimidated subway riders in Manhattan Wednesday before chasing a teenager out of the train station wielding a knife. 

    Two students were arrested Monday in Washington Township, accused of posting on social media that people shouldn't walk in the town alone, or else, NBC Philadelphia reported.

    The creepy clown sightings began in late August in the Carolinas, and have exploded across the country. Especially in recent weeks, reports of clown sightings and alleged attacks have popped up seemingly everywhere, and very few of the arrests seem to involve real clowns, the kinds said to be hiding in bushes or snatching at people.

    Instead, they are mainly hoaxes propogated on social media. Still, authorities are taking them seriously as a potential threat to public safety, particularly at schools, where principals have conducted lockdowns and canceled classes. Even the White House is paying attention, according to The Hill newspaper — press secretary Josh Earnest was asked about the phenomenon on Tuesday, and said law enforcement is taking it seriously.

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    In Connecticut, three girls in Ansonia were arrested for allegedly threatening their schools on social media in two separate incidents, according to NBC Connecticut. Two of the girls threatened to shoot up the middle school and high school in the Ansonia school system.

    The New Haven Public school district is prohibiting clown costumes after several "concerning" clown-related Instagram posts popped up online. More police presence can be found at several schools in the area as well, following a spate of threats and the hoax arrests.

    At the University of Connecticut, several hundred students wielding golf clubs, shovels and hockey sticks decided to take matters into their own hands, gathering just before midnight Monday in a cemetery, apparently ready to fight off menacing clowns they heard might be lurking among the headstones.

    Following UConn's clown hunt, Connecticut state troopers said in a statement that hoaxes take resources away from other emergencies.

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    "There are many other emergencies and calls for service that troopers and other first responders need to get to without being misdirected to a prank," the statement said.

    The clown craze has affected other college campuses as well. Students at Pennsylvania State University and Belmont University reportedly started their own "clown hunts" after alleged sightings.

    Some sociologists are calling the fear a twist on a phenomenon that goes all the way back to witch hunts.

    "There is a sense that there is some evil force out there that we have to organize together to attack," said Dustin Kidd, a sociologist and pop culture expert at Temple University. "If anything, it's just distracting us from the real ordinary threats that we face in our everyday lives."

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    Law enforcement officials are asking people to remain aware, but to not call in false reports. They are also encouraging people to not get caught up in the hype.

    "Our main message is don't believe the hype and don't be afraid of the clowns," New York Police Department's Deputy Commissioner John Miller said earlier in the week.

    But as people continue to panic over the trend, it's causing real worry for professional clown Mario Gonzalez.

    "I'm feeling kind of … fear … really,” he told NBC Chicago, asking people to not be afraid of clowns. “I have been doing this for maybe 30 years and I never feel like that before."

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    The Associated Press contributed to this report.