Sightings of creepy 'nuisance' clowns a drain on Waterloo police resources

Waterloo Regional Police are calling a recent spike in creepy clown sightings a 'nuisance' and a drain on resources, after a dozen accounts of people donning clown costumes in what's inexplicably become an international phenomenon.

Police say they've had a dozen creepy clown calls in the past week

Waterloo Regional Police are calling a recent spike in creepy clown sightings a 'nuisance' and a drain on resources, after a dozen accounts of people donning sinister-looking clown costumes in what's inexplicably become an international phenomenon. 

"They're really nuisance calls," Waterloo Regional Police spokesman Inspector Michael Haffner said Tuesday, noting there's nothing illegal about dressing up as a clown, creepy or otherwise. 

"It's when the threshold changes where these individuals that are in most cases out to conduct a prank, start to chase young children, start to try to scare young adults or, in some cases carry replica weapons and try to intimidate individuals is when we're really concerned." 

The first reported clown sighting came to police late last week, when someone called in the eerie sight of a person dressed in dark clothing and a clown mask, lurking in front of a Sobey's parking lot late Thursday night on Fischer Hallman Road in Kitchener's Williamsburg neighbourhood. 

Vanishing clown

Police said the clown was described as "standing motionless" with "nothing seen in their hands," but when officers arrived, whoever it was, had vanished. 

After that, police reported a cluster of four creepy clown sightings on Friday and Saturday nights in in the Meyers Road and Christopher Drive area, in Cambridge's south-end. 

In one incident, a clown was seen carrying a green plastic sword and a plastic gun, which prompted police to issue a public warning about the potential criminal charges. 

The latest sightings happened on Sunday, according to police. In Kitchener two clown-costumed suspects gave chase to a pair of girls in the city's Doon area and in Waterloo, a trio of people wearing clown masks, one of them brandishing a large stick followed someone in the Albert and Hazel area. 

Chasing phantoms

In each of the cases, no-one was hurt, but police found themselves chasing phantoms tying up of front line officers, who police say are already squeezed for time. 

"These individuals are dressing up to simply conduct a prank," Haffner said. "We just wish people would stop trying to scare individuals in our region." 

Some of these clown sightings have even happened near Waterloo Region schools, where children have seen people dressed as clowns, or in clown masks passing through school property in the middle of the afternoon. 

While police note that the costume-clad clowns have not approached children in any of the reported cases, it has prompted educators at several Waterloo Region schools to send notes home to parents about the sightings, explaining that school staff has increased vigilance around schools.  

No need for alarm

Haffner stressed that in many cases, it is simply people walking down the street in costume and that there is no need for public alarm, but he also said police would respond if and when people are jarred, frightened or intimidated by clown sightings.

"We have an obligation," he said. "We will respond to ensure the safety of the people who are calling in and reporting these sightings, but we need to be cognizant that this also taking us away from responding to police-related matters, where in some cases these are people in costumes walking down the street."

Haffner said while it isn't illegal to dress up as a clown, it is a crime to intimidate, threaten or harass people, even if it is a prank. 

"Halloween is 20 days away," Haffner said. "Feel free to put your costume away and dress up on that night and go have some fun and right now it is a bit of a nuisance in our community and we're asking people to stop clowning around."