The ‘killer clown craze’ that has swept the globe reared its head in Gibraltar this weekend with a clown sighting in Morrison’s carpark.
The international ‘prank’ entails people dressed as ‘creepy’ clowns, usually wielding a toy weapon, with the aim of scaring members of the public. Over the weekend a copycat clown appeared on the Rock.
The Royal Gibraltar Police is aware that the clown epidemic sweeping the United States and UK has surfaced locally.
A police statement detailed how on Saturday evening a teenage girl was “confronted by an unknown person dressed as a clown and wielding what appeared to be a baseball bat.”
The incident resulted in a juvenile “feeling distressed and intimidated.”
It is not an offence to dress up as a clown, but the statement warned that the RGP will treat this type of behaviour seriously especially to those seeking to cause distress or potential injury to anyone.
The craze has been labelled a waste of police time by UK police officers and the RGP have also said that these pranks tie up police resources and can impact on their ability to respond to other incidents.
“Whilst not wanting to be accused of preventing people from enjoying themselves, much as is our stance during the annual Halloween celebrations, we would also ask those same people to think about the impact of their behaviour on others and themselves,” a police spokesman said.
“We will respond robustly if someone feels threatened intimated or suffers any form of injury after being targeted by this kind of behaviour, and the culprits arrested for the relevant offences.”
The RGP urged anyone subjected to this type of anti-social behaviour to report the matter to the police as soon as possible.
So far there has been one report on the Rock, but in the UK this new ‘hoax’ has become widespread with one police force dealing with 14 reports in 24 hours.
Chief Superintendent Andy Boyd, of Thames Valley Police – whose force received the 14 calls – warned that the trend, which started in the United States, is a waste of police resources.
“Their actions can cause fear and anxiety to other people, this could be perceived to be intimidating and threatening which could lead to public order offences, arrest and a criminal record,” Mr Boyd said.
“In addition, their behaviour is causing multiple reports to our call takers and is tying up police resources which could impact on calls to other incidents.”
“While we realise that reports of this kind are not restricted to the Thames Valley area, the issues of intimidation, potential arrest and waste of public resources are the same across the country and we would urge people to refrain from such activity.”
The clown pranks have also resulted in arrests, with incidents reported in Norwich, South Wales, Gloucestershire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Manchester and Northumbria.
In Norwich a 30-year-old man was arrested suspicion of public order offences after allegedly dressing as a clown and jumping out on a woman in a park, screaming and then chasing her.
A masked man carrying a knife left a group of children aged 11 and 12 “upset and distressed” when he jumped out on them on their way to school in Durham.
In Suffolk, a boy “younger than a teenager” was chased by “several people dressed as clowns”
Sussex Police warned pranksters they could face arrest and urged people not to dress up as clowns and frighten strangers with a weapon.
A spokesman said they received “numerous” calls over the weekend from people feeling intimated by the new trend.
“We are aware this is a trend that has come over from America as Halloween is approaching,” said Inspector Simon Starns, of Sussex Police.
“However, while it is not an offence to dress up as a clown and prank your mates, we don’t advise people to do this to strangers in the current climate of heightened security and it is an offence to carry an offensive weapon or an item which could be perceived to be a weapon.”
“We will respond if someone feels threatened and the culprit could end up being arrested and then they won’t find it so funny.”