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Commissioner calls for common sense

11th October 2016

Over the last few weeks there has been an increase of clown activity that is causing  concern, which appears to be linked to the Stephen King film “IT”.

Since Friday 30th September, Northumbria Police has seen a rise in the number of incidences involving people dressed as clowns, not all reports have been an indication of trouble, some have been to report the sighting of clowns.  Most of the clowns have turned out to be 16 years of age or so though one youngster was cautioned for possessing a knife. There has been a small minority of calls to Northumbria Police where the behaviour of people dressed as clowns has caused harassment, alarm or distress which is a criminal offence and has been dealt with as such.

Vera Baird QC, said “I am sure this started as Halloween fun, but when people are hiding in bushes, jumping out on members of the public or running around in open spaces it can be scary. A clown is effectively wearing a mask. Children in particular are complaining of being afraid. Parents are worrying that people with bad intentions can take advantage of the trend. My advice is just don’t dress as a clown. The fun has been spoilt now. You might well be misunderstood and end up in trouble and if you are out to scare you are likely to be committing an offence.

“I also understand that someone has published a list of locations where clowns plan to visit. I would urge anyone planning to do this not to – it looks deliberately intimidatory and it’s not acceptable.”

Northumbria Police are working to reassure local communities. All local authorities within the force area are circulating schools to ask children not to dress as clowns and to ask for help if they are frightened. Neighbourhood officers are visiting schools and those that have particularly been affected have had increased high visibility patrols during pick up and drop off times.

Vera Baird QC, added “This is not an outbreak of major crime but I assure residents that Northumbria police are taking it seriously. If anyone was planning to dress as a clown – don’t.  If anyone does so and causes alarm and distress it is a criminal offence under the public order act. Halloween is not a justification for this behaviour.”