Creepy Clown Threats

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Law enforcement always finds itself facing new and challenging problems.  In recent weeks a new problem has emerged; clowns!

Throughout the nation police departments have been receiving complaints of clowns chasing people, attempting to lure people, causing lockdowns at schools or just being present and creeping people out.  Many law enforcement professionals and residents are asking themselves; “What can I do if confronted with such a report?”

Depending on the circumstances of the encounter with the clown, some statutes may apply.  However, please be mindful that people may dress as they wish and we must be cautious and reasonable about addressing a person’s attire; what we can address is their conduct.

Below is what the Ramsey Police Department plans to do.

Step 1:  Conduct a proactive media campaign utilizing your social media outlets and other resources advising your residents of the issue, proactive tactics to enhance security in the community and what offenders will face if they conduct themselves inappropriately.

Step 2:  Review scenarios and the elements of criminal statutes with our officers so that we increase their situational awareness.  Officers need to have the tools necessary so they can properly utilize discretion and reasonableness when dealing with these situations.  In addition, your entire agency needs to be consistent with how these situations are addressed and documented.

Step 3: Know your criminal statutes and the elements of the crime that must be present to make the arrest.  Don’t ignore the obvious:
If a clown directs violence toward a school or other area of public assembly and creates fear, that threat may fall under a “False Public Alarms” type of statute (2C:33-3)

If a clown directly threatens anyone. That threat may fall under “Terroristic Threats” (2C:12-3) or under “Harassment” (2C: 33-4)
If you have clown that has been dealt with at a location and they return after being warned about their conduct previously, a statute of trespassing (2C:18-3) or even stalking (2C:12-10) may be appropriate. If a clown approaches a juvenile and lures or attempts to lure him/her to a secluded area with the purpose to commit a crime against them, a statute of luring, enticing a child (2C:13-6) may be appropriate. If an adult is the victim, a statute of luring, enticing an adult (2C:13-7) may be appropriate.
If a juvenile in a clown suit engages in conduct that would expose others to bodily injury or death, a statute of Endangering Another Person (2C:24-7.1) may be appropriate. For Example, a juvenile dresses as a clown and attempts to scare others in a park as a prank.  Children see him and run due to fear. During their flight, they run into a street and almost get struck by a passing car. This charge may be appropriate.
Step 4:  If your agency falls victim to such an incident, be sure that you fully document all the elements of the crime committed/charged, document all the actions of the suspect and get witness/victim statements to demonstrate the fear created or risk of injury created by this fear.  You may also want to document your proactive media campaign initiative that warned your community about such activity.

We hope that this information assists you and makes your feel a little more comfortable should you be.

Thank You,
The Ramsey Police

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