Creepy clown sightings is one of the fastest-trending topics on social media right now.
The increased popularity is due to the sudden surge of people dressing up as clowns and walking around in public. Normally seen at haunted houses and Halloween parties, clowns have been appearing in random places in hopes of getting a reaction from the public.
“Right now the clown craze is a spoof that has spun out of control,” says Captain Steve Winward of the Utah Highway Patrol. “There have been several reports in Utah, but nothing substantiated. Most of what we are seeing is people posting things on social media, but nothing really has come of it.”
Police officers throughout the nation have to treat these reports as serious and a potential threat to the public. A majority of the incidents have not posed a real problem, but dispatching units to answer these type of calls puts a drain on public safety resources.
Many people believe that the Stephen King novel “It” is one of the main causes of the clown epidemic. The story features a clown called Pennywise, who walks around and terrorizes little children. Filming for a 2017 adaptation of the novel began this summer.
King himself has tried to calm the situation. But regardless of the motives behind the clown craze, Winward wants students or staff to call the authorities if they spot a clown on campus or in a nearby neighborhood.
“The best way [to deal with a clown sighting] is to contact the campus or local police,” Winward says. “We have had individuals who have taken it upon themselves to confront the person dressed up as the clown and ended up attacking the person. This could result in a person being charged with assault.”
A clown costume is normally one of the most common costumes on Halloween because it is fairly easy to make. But this year may not be the best year to do that, for obvious reasons.
“Students should change their costume choices this year. They should dress up as a cop, or maybe an accountant,” Winward says jokingly.