The Portsmouth Police Department has issued a “clown warning.” Thursday night the Portsmouth Police received a report of a person dressed as a clown in the area of the bridge standing, holding an axe and staring at people passing by. Police also received a report of a clown knocking on the door of a residence on Robinson Avenue. Operations Captain Lynn Brewer says those incidents are not to be taken lightly.
On August 24, 2016 residents of the Fleetwood Manor Apartments, in Greenville, South Carolina, received letters from their management company warning them of multiple reported sightings of people dressed as clowns attempting to lure children into the woods near the complex. The letters were cautioning residents to be on their guard and to report any sightings immediately to local authorities.
The clowning spread to other cities in South Carolina and then began to spread north with sightings in North Carolina, Virginia and Columbus, Ohio. The reported sightings have varied from the clowns standing around displaying weapons such as axes, knives and swords to reports of clowns chasing children down the street, trying to lure children into wooded areas and knocking on the doors of individual residences.
“The Police Department would like to strongly caution individuals or groups against dressing up as clowns and partaking in this type of activity,” Brewer said. “To stand in a public area dressed as a clown while brandishing a weapon could lead to an arrest on charges of inducing panic or disorderly conduct. To attempt to lure a child in any way will result in charges of criminal child enticement and result in a trip to jail.
“Before engaging in this type of conduct a person should consider the gun laws in Ohio that allow for open carry, concealed carry and the protection of your home from someone that enters upon your property that you believe is a threat to your safety or the safety of your family,” Brewer said. “To engage in chasing a child or an adult down the street while holding a weapon, even if a prank, will result in an arrest for aggravated menacing and could result in tragic consequences for you and other people.”
Brewer said whether a person is arrested or not, if police are called and they find the person, they should know that the police are totally within their legal rights to verify their identity, check them for warrants, make them leave the area or at a very minimum, advise them of the dangers they are placing themselves and the community in by their actions.
“It will be the rare exception in these encounters, should they occur, that we just advise someone and send them on their way,” Brewer said. “The obvious intent of persons engaged in this activity is to garner attention and cause fear. That being said persons caught acting out illegally can expect legal consequences.”
The public is encouraged to notify law enforcement immediately should they see someone dressed as a clown acting out in this manner. “The last thing we want to see is someone get seriously hurt or killed engaging in this activity,” Brewer said.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.