Clown Hoaxes Force Police To Check Pranks For Real Threats

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The “creepy clown” trend has arrived in New York City following a frightening incident in the subway.

A 19-year-old man was trying to get off a 6 train at 96th Street last Wednesday when a man in a clown outfit blocked his exit. The man pushed his way past the clown, who then pulled out what appeared to be a large kitchen knife.

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The teen ran up the stairs, exiting the station and went to a hospital to report the incident.

Police canvassed the area but didn’t find the clown.

Reports of menacing clowns have been spreading across the U.S., fueled largely by social media, and authorities say they are being forced to take them seriously as a potential threat to public safety, particularly at schools.

It’s not the only time a creepy clown has been spotted in our area wielding a knife.

On Long Island, police said a 14-year-old boy had just left Malverne High School Wednesday afternoon and was crossing the nearby town line into Lakeview when the he said a person dressed in a white clown mask and red wig approached him from behind with a large kitchen knife.

The teen claimed to have run through the alleyway onto Jefferson Avenue and then to Langdon Boulevard, after which point the clown was no longer there, police said.

Ciayra Brown and many other Malverne High School students were shaken by the incident.

“At this point it’s beyond a prank,” Brown told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “They’re carrying weapons, so at this point it’s a crime.”

“That’s my worst fear… a middle schooler or elementary schooler walking home and they get attacked,” Brown added.

Nadia Daley, 12, said she has heard a lot of scary stories.

“At first I didn’t really believe it. but now I see, because one of my friends showed me that they saw a clown with a knife sitting on the swings just a couple blocks from here — with a knife — and a kind of got really scared,” Nadia said.

“I’m just really nervous about all these clowns because on social media, everyone’s sending me this stuff about how clowns are like killing people and like stalking them,” added student Amaya Poole.

According to Nassau County Police Detective Richard Lebrun, patrols will be increased across the county and police are taking the incident as a serious threat.

Investigators say if the clown is caught, they will be arrested and could face up to one year in jail for possession of a weapon.

The clown was described as 6 feet tall with a thin build.

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In Fair Lawn, New Jersey, clown masks were confiscated during an arrest around 1 a.m. Wednesday.  The masks were found along with marijuana and a knife inside of a pickup truck, police said.

Investigators said the people in the truck had been hanging out of the vehicle wearing the masks and yelling at other drivers.

An 18-year-old passenger was arrested and the 19-year-old driver was ticketed for reckless driving.

In another case, a 12-year-old girl was arrested in Toms River, New Jersey this week for allegedly posting a violent threat online directed at a local school.

Several hundred University of Connecticut students gathered late Monday in a cemetery, ready to do battle with clowns they had heard might be lurking among the headstones. Police determined that the rumors were a hoax.

Similar incidents have been reported at schools across the country, including Penn State University, where more than 500 students showed up early Tuesday to hunt for clowns.

Child development experts said the clown craze is growing because of social media, and the fear children have is being fed by the amount of time they spend online.

“In this day and age of social media and hype and rumor, clowns are the new form of terrorism for some children,” child development expert Alane Fagin told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.

Fagin said parents need to limit the time their kids spend online.

“We’ve got to be very careful not to fuel the fear,” she said. “There’s an awful lot of information out there that is absolutely false.”

Fagin also said parents should not dismiss children’s fears, but should acknowledge the fear sand give the children assurance.

“The police are looking into any possible threat, so police and adults will keep kids safe,” she said.

Meanwhile, police departments, including the NYPD, are warning the public and even taking to social media urging people not to take part.

“Across the country we’ve seen this trend, we have about 20 states involved in clown threats, clown sightings, clown crimes,” said NYPD Intelligence and Counterterrorism Deputy Commissioner John Miller.

Unusual creepy clown reports started popping up in South Carolina back in August, but since then the stories have spread to nearly a dozen states.

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