‘Creepy clown’ trend reaches Sussex County

| 05 Oct 2016 | 01:41

Clown sightings, likely inspired by a recent social media trend, have been popping up all over the country, but are now starting to be reported in Sussex County.
While the majority of the reports have turned out to be harmless pranks, reports of armed clowns and related social media threats have police investigating and residents on edge.
In Vernon, Lt. Bill Fischer of the Vernon Police said there was report made on Oct. 3 of a clown sighting, but officers checked the area immediately after the phone call and there was nothing found except for “two deer laying in a field.”
“Even my own son texted me asking me if clowns were going door-to-door in Vernon,” he said. “No, that is not true.”
State police are currently investigating a more threatening incident in Stillwater Township, where clowns were seen in a pickup truck following a school bus on Oct. 3. According to state police, they have some leads that they’re working on and are still currently investigating.
The trend has hit Sparta too. Police Chief Ernie Reigstad said they did have a male juvenile who was dressed as a clown on Oct. 3, and officers had “a real long talk with him about getting involved in the trend.”
“There have been a couple across the country, threats made in association with this, but in the majority of them it's just been kids playing jokes when the police officers have found them,” Reigstad said. “Many of the threats have not been valid threats, they've been hoaxes but they have been charged on those.”
In Tom’s River in Ocean County, while there have been no credible threats, the district superintendent sent out a letter on Sept. 30 saying that the district has beefed up security at all of the schools in the district in light of the recent trend.
“It’s not illegal to wear a costume, but if you’re doing it to alarm somebody or to intimidate someone, then you start to cross the line,” Reigstad said. “It’s something on social media that’s been encouraged as a prank, but there are people that are afraid of clowns. The problem is that it can be very scary to someone like that.”

Clowns in New York

On Oct. 4, the Florida Union Free School District in Orange County, N.Y., was locked down after a report of a clown sighting and a coinciding social media threat, according to a statement. After police checked the grounds and the buildings, classes resumed, but police will remain in the district while the investigation continues.
In nearby Newburgh, photos of an armed clown appearing to be on a bridge on the City of Newburgh/New Windsor border began circulating Facebook over the weekend. New Windsor Police confirmed that there was an incident on the bridge above Walsh Road, according to reports, and that the clown was identified as a 17-year-old boy with a BB gun. He will not face charges.
In New York City, NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller told reporters on Oct. 3, “don't fear the creepy clowns.” When asked about the unexplained spike in reports in other places of menacing by people dressed as clowns, Miller told reporters that the department had assessed supposed clown threats against the city on social media and deemed them harmless.