NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the creepy clown craze continues to spook the nation, one New York City police official is saying “don’t believe the hype.”
NYPD Intelligence and Counterterrorism Deputy Commissioner John Miller said at least 20 states have seen threats, sightings and crimes related to clowns in recent weeks.
Miller said his threat analysis team assessed various online clown-related threats in the New York City area and found none of them to be credible.
“We’re tracking it but we don’t see any real threat here,” Miller said, adding they’ve traced some of the threats back to individuals and fake websites. “We have tried to avoid falling into the trap of putting extra police protection or presence in places where we’ve had these.”
“Our main message is don’t believe the hype and don’t be afraid of the clowns,” Miller added.
As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, Miller’s comments came as the NYPD’s 109th Precinct issued a tweet Sunday night warning the public not to participate in the clown craze.
“The increase in creepy clown sightings is dangerous. It causes panic & alarm,” the tweet read.
The unusual creepy clown reports started surfacing in August when children in Greenville, South Carolina told police that clowns tried luring them into woods by offering money.
Since then, reports of sightings keep increasing and schools are now being threatened.
Police and Homeland Security are investigating Instagram posts in Philadelphia from over the weekend. All use the word clown and some mention blowing up schools, CBS News’ Jamie Yuccas reported.
Last week, a boy from New Jersey claimed he ran from a clown in Phillipsburg. Days later, Khalique Owens showed CBS2’s Bauman where he said he spotted two clowns lurking Wednesday night in Suffolk County.
And this past Friday, social media threats from anonymous clown accounts kept elementary school children inside during recess last week in Lindenhurst, Long Island.
In Houston, Texas an Instagram post showed clowns threatening to kidnap students or kill teachers.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, a school district closed Friday when a woman reported being attacked by a man dressed as a clown.
“We’ve drilled down on this in New York as we’ve had different Facebook threats, and this is our Threat Analysis Unit that’s engaged in its work; different online threats,” Miller said.
With Halloween just around the corner, some New Yorkers are worried about telling the difference between friend, and foe.
“I’d probably run, honestly. I don’t’ think, I mean, I’m not a fan of clowns, to be completely honest,” one man said. “I don’t think many people are — especially just like hanging out in the neighborhood.”
“There’s a lot of strange people in New York already, so people dressing as strange clowns isn’t that scary, as long as they’re just going dress up and walk around and act creepy and not try to hurt anyone,” said Steve Smith of the Upper West Side.
But police said so far, it appears that the New York City clowns are just a bunch of online jokers.
Police said there has been at least one deadly incident linked to a clown hoax. In Reading, Pennsylvania, a 16-year-old was wearing a clown mask when he was stabbed to death in a quarrel, police said. A 29-year-old now faces first-degree murder charges in the case.
Police in Orange County said a clown spotted in Newburgh Saturday was identified as a 17-year-old boy with a BB gun. He will not face charges.