The public across Northern Ireland has made 62 complaints to police this month about people dressed as clowns.
The reports have come in from towns and cities across all six counties of Northern Ireland.
Hot-spots for reports have been Belfast with 14, Bangor with six, Ballymena with four and Moneymore with three. On average just over five reports were made to police per weekday from 13 to 19 October, but these spiked up to 17 reports last Saturday and further 17 on Sunday.
Police this week arrested three males dressed as clowns in Armagh on suspicion of common assault.
Writing under the headline ‘Who’s laughing now?’, police said on Facebook that they responded to reports of males disturbing members of the public in the Mullacreevie Park area on Wednesday while dressed as clowns.
Police reported on Facebook: “Well now the joke’s on them. Members of B Section tracked them down and all of them will be dealt with in relation to offences of Common Assault.”
PSNI used the hastags “#stopclowningaround” and “#zerotolerance” for the post.
A resident from the Mullacreevie Park area told the News Letter she was walking near the play park around 7.30pm the same evening.
“All of a sudden these children came running past us screaming. The next morning someone told me their children had come into the house the night before because they had been scared by those boys [wearing clown masks].”
Supt Muir Clark, District Policing Command, told the News Letter: “We are hopeful that the clown phenomenon which has been trending on social media is starting to decline. However, we would reiterate our warning to anyone who may be considering getting involved in this fad, that your actions could lead to very serious consequences and a criminal record.”
Randy Christensen, former President of the World Clown Association, told the News Letter that the craze has nothing to do with genuine clowning which he said is “appropriate for all ages and brings comic relief”.
“This has to do specifically with teenagers and young adults perpetuating pranks on an unsuspecting audience in order to gain an adrenaline rush,” he said.
Masks make some youth feel empowered to act out anti-social behaviour, he said, while their victims may have an irrational fear of clown images after having had their first experience from a horror movie such Stephen King’s ‘IT’.
Others have an irrational fear of masks, perhaps because they cannot read the person’s facial cues and don’t know what they will do next, he added.
Time magazine says the ‘Killer Clown’ craze began in Greenville County, south Carolina, in August where children twice reported ‘clowns’ trying to draw them into the woods. No arrests were made.
ABC news reported 12 months ago that residents of Bakersfield in California were being terrorized by people dressed as clowns, some reportedly wielding machetes or baseball bats. Twenty sightings were reported in a week but there was only arrest - a single unarmed 14-year-old.
Clowns incidents reported to police from 13 to 19 October are listed by county as follows;-
:: BELFAST - Belfast (x12), East Belfast, North Belfast
:: ARMAGH - Craigavon, Armagh, Lurgan, Portadown (x4)
:: DOWN - Bangor (x6), Newry (x2), Newcastle
:: ANTRIM - Portrush, Larne, Carrickfergus, Lisburn (x3), Ballymena (x4), Antrim, Newtownabbey (x2)
:: TYRONE - Cookstown (x2), Coalisland, Newtownstewart, Omagh, Dungannon,
:: FERMANAGH - Enniskillen (x2)
:: LONDONDERRY - Drumahoe, Magherafelt (x2), Maghera (x2), Moneymore (x3), Coleraine, Limavady (x2)