Social media fears over clown attacks
Police struggle to find way to deal with increasing complaints – and social media scare stories – in run-up to Halloween
AS Halloween nears police are trying to find a way to cope with the increasing complaints of thugs dressed as clowns terrorising school children in towns across the country.
Many of the accounts about attacks by evil clowns have been false but have led to other reports of vigilante gangs roaming streets hunting down suspected clowns – and police are warning anyone taking the law into their own hands that they will face severe consequences.
It may also be difficult for police to arrest clowns unless they are witnessed causing trouble as the simple fact of painting your face or dressing up is not a crime. The law forbids people deliberately concealing their faces but does not include make-up.
Reports of clowns have come from all over France with Le Monde saying the first came in Périgueux, Dordogne, on October 10 when a youth dressed as a clown followed school children with a knife “for a joke”.
Other reports followed from Pas-de-Calais with a man wielding a chainsaw reported in front of a school in Liévin and then a man dressed as a clown was arrested after chasing children in Douvrin, Pas-de-Calais. He was jailed for six months.
At the weekend 14 young people disguised as clowns were arrested in Agde, Hérault, after chasing motorists and brandishing a sword and baseball bats.
In Parisian suburb Chelles, a youth with white-painted face was arrested after chasing a woman with a plastic axe – and then being chased himself by a man carrying a baseball bat.
Meanwhile, social media networks highlighted every claimed sighting, prompting police to issue a warning to users to "stop spreading false information" about the presence of violent clowns in their neighbourhood.
With claims of gangs roaming streets armed with baseball bats, steel bars, hammers and knuckle-dusters police are also warning that anyone – whether clown or vigilante - carrying a weapon in a public place could face prison.
Police say people should call 17 (or 112 from a mobile phone) if they spot an aggressive clown on the street.
In Lille, the mairie has cancelled the “Zombie Walk” planned for November 1 amid fears that aggressive clowns could join in and spark trouble as many of the clown reports have been from the north of France.