Clowns in Afula.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Reports of minors dressed in frightening clown costumes scaring children – possibly inspired by the evil clown who terrorizes a group of teens in the recently released film adaption of Stephen King’s It – have spread across the country.
According to police, several assaults and acts of intimidation carried out by young suspects dressed as clowns and wielding weapons have rattled communities from the North to the South over the past several days, necessitating special police patrols.
On Monday, a 10-year-old girl from Beersheba was surrounded and pepper-sprayed by a group of teenagers wearing clown costumes and makeup, while four other children under 13 were detained for frightening drivers on a highway near Dimona.
Also in Beersheba on Tuesday night, a scuffle between a teenager dressed as a clown and a frightened citizen ended in a stabbing. The clown, who was stabbed in the upper body, was later evacuated in moderate condition to hospital.
In the central city of Ramle, police arrested an 18-year-old boy after receiving multiple reports of a clown carrying a plastic hammer scaring children and adults at a public park. In Holon and Rishon Lezion, dozens of calls were received about similar encounters.
Near Haifa on Wednesday, a 16-year-old boy was arrested after police received multiple reports of teenagers dressed as menacing clowns terrifying children on the streets and in local parks.
In perhaps one of the most serious cases, police said a 13-year-old boy wearing a Dracula mask and wielding a metal knife was arrested in Herzliya before harming anyone.
Following several reported incidents in Modi’in west of the capital, Shahar Me-On of the Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut City Council said that “over the past few days there have been many reports of youths wearing clown masks and scaring adults and children in public areas throughout the country. There is also a great deal of social media on this subject. The... police and the Education Administration are involved in the matter and have clarified that this is a criminal offense – a breach of the public peace. In addition, a number of youths were detained in neighboring cities and criminal measures were taken against them.”
The council warned that “any child or adolescent caught in violation of public safety” would be detained.
“We are concerned about the phenomenon, its scope and its implications, and call upon parents and children to be aware of what is happening and to be alert to their children’s activities,” Me-On said.
“We call upon the youth not to take part in this illegal act that is contrary to the law and may endanger them and, God forbid, cause injury or panic to others.”
Although no serious injuries have been reported, police said a “zero tolerance” policy against frightening people had been instituted.
“There have been a number of incidents that have occurred over the past few days across the country, with dozens of reports received by police about minors wearing clown masks scaring children and startling drivers on a number of different roads,” said national police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld on Wednesday. “Police have carried out operations in the North, South and Central regions to respond to those incidents, which have mostly taken place in public parks and roads where a number of the suspects have been spotted.”
While Rosenfeld said he could not confirm the suspects were inspired by the horror film, which recently opened in Israel, he said police were looking into the circumstances behind the phenomenon.
“Police are dealing with the matter in order to prevent any serious situations from taking place,” he said.
The incidents have become so pervasive that the Education Ministry this week sent out memos to schools addressing the trend and urging teachers to encourage counseling for students rattled by such encounters.
Ilanit Chernick contributed to this report
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>