Stop chasing evil clowns, say police
Police fear vigilante activity as social media spread reports of "aggressive clowns" in tranquil French towns
FRENCH police have launched a campaign to stop vigilante groups from chasing "evil clowns" from their towns and villages.
Reports of agressive clowns scaring passers-by have sprung up via several Facebook groups in recent weeks - prompting some residents to take the law into their own hands and try tracking them down.
With just a few days before Halloween, France's national police has now issued a notice calling on social media users to "stop spreading false information" about the presence of violent clowns in their neighbourhood.
One Tweet appearing to show a picture of a clown on a street corner, invited locals in Wazemme, near Lille, to "stay vigilant and don’t hesitate to go out armed".
The phenomenon began in the north of France, near Calais, where a clown was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence for threatening a group of teenagers with a fake gun. A 19-year-old man was handed the same sentence for terrorising passers-by in Béthune with a stick resembling a long knife.
Other arrests have been made - not of clowns, but of so-called "clown-hunters". Five young people were arrested in Mulhouse earlier this month for "clown-chasing" through the town's streets, armed with a baseball bat, a hammer, knuckle-dusters and tear gas. They will go on trial shortly.
Police fear the online scaremongering will lead to more violence and vigilante activity. They say anyone who spots "an agressive clown" should call the police on 17 or 112 from a mobile phone.