Police chief: Clowns 'terrorizing public' in S.C. will be arrested

GREENVILLE, S.C. --- No more clowning around.

That's the message Greenville law enforcement officials sent to the clowns who have reportedly been sighted at apartment complexes across the county.

Addressing the incidents at a media conference Thursday, Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said officers will arrest and charge anyone dressed up as a clown.

"It's illegal. It's dangerous. It's inappropriate, and it's creating community concern so it needs to stop," MIller said.

Police have responded to four clown-related calls since Monday, two of which occurred at Shemwood Crossing Apartments. Another was reported on Deoyley Avenue in the Pleasant Valley community Tuesday afternoon.

In the most recent sighting Wednesday night, officers responded to Park Haywood Apartments on Congaree Road after a woman reported seeing a middle-aged white man in clown-like facial makeup and red hair standing outside the laundromat. The woman told police the clown stared at her as she walked out, but didn't speak to or follow her.

The Sheriff's Office has received two documented reports of clowns appearing in Greenville County on Aug. 19 and Aug. 29, said Master Deputy Ryan Flood.

"This is something that we're taking very seriously, especially because of the allegations of people dressed in clown outfits trying to lure children into the woods," Flood said Thursday.

Also on Thursday, the Travelers Rest Police Department investigated two calls about a clown sighting at Brookside Pointe Apartments, Police Chief Lance Crowe said.

Both calls were received Thursday morning. One report directed officers to a building number that doesn't exist at the apartment complex, while the second call was to a different location in the same complex, Crowe said.

Several children and adults were outside at the time, but no one had any information about a clown sighting.

"Our thought right now is that these were hoax calls, but we will continue to monitor," Crowe said.

Miller said he doesn't know if the sightings are connected to the upcoming Rob Zombie movie release, 31, or if it's the same people repeatedly dressing up in clown outfits.

The one commonality, Miller said, is that none of the clowns have tried to communicate with anyone. "They only stand in an area to be seen and watch the reaction of individuals," he said.

According to South Carolina state law, no one over the age of 16 can appear in public wearing a mask "or other device which concealed his identity." The statute makes exceptions for people whose trade or employment involves wearing a mask. There's also a city of Greenville ordinance that prohibits "molesting, disturbing or following persons."

Additional laws may apply, depending on the specific circumstances of reach case.

Officers with both Greenville police and the Greenville County Sheriff's Office have increased patrols in areas where sightings have occurred.

"If there are sightings, take a photo, note person and vehicle descriptions, pay attention to direction of travel, and immediately call 911," police spokesman Gilberto Franco said.

Staff writer Romando Dixson contributed.

Copyright 2016 WCNC


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