By Sebastian Moronta Blanco, Staff Writer
As of last week, we can no longer say that the South Coast has been immune to the clown sighting phenomenon.
Recently, reports of clown sightings have surfaced in the New Bedford area, the majority of which have come in the form of posts on social media.
Facebook posts, tweets, and Instagram videos of clowns appearing all over the area have been posted within the last week.
So far, none of the local clown sightings have indicated malicious intent, but regardless, the sightings have garnered attention from local officials and the Dartmouth police department.
After the first reported sighting, the police department posted this warning to the department’s Facebook account:
“As we ALWAYS recommend, NEVER approach and/or let yourself be enticed by ANY stranger, let alone SOME TOOL dressed up like a clown standing either on the side of the road or in the woods offering you something. If you encounter any of these creepy clowns in Dartmouth, please call the station immediately so that we can respond and identify the ‘Bozo!’”
As more reported sightings piled up, the department generated a PSA also posted to their Facebook page, featuring police officers approaching a clown and demonstrating the “zero tolerance policy” that the department has since
The last twenty seconds of the video consists of a message from Dartmouth Police Detective Kyle J. Costa where he describes the policy and reminds clown potentials of the arrestable offenses they’re at risk of committing.
Detective Costa closes out the video, saying “Remember, if you want to act like a clown, we have no problem treating you like one.”
While clown sightings have only recently appeared in the South Coast area, the phenomenon has spread across the country over the past several weeks, with some reports putting clowns on the streets as early as late August.
The social media craze began after reports of a clown luring children into a forest in South Carolina. Since then, over forty states have reported sightings, and the craze has even spread overseas to more than ten other countries worldwide.
In response to the sightings, police departments and officials across the nation have warned against clown-related behavior, and have so far attributed the phenomenon as nothing more than pranks and harassment.
Nonetheless, they urge citizens to maintain distance and remain safe.
Some have gone further, such as a California School District that banned clown costumes during Halloween, and the fast food chain McDonald’s deciding to keep their mascot, Ronald McDonald, under a low profile as a result of the incidents.
The phenomenon has almost exclusively been localized to schools and universities and has, for the most part, remained to be a non-violent trend.
While the vast majority of sightings have been free of cruel intent, there have been several cases of threats made against students and educational institutions.
In a few isolated cases, some clowns have been described as carrying weapons and firearms, and a university was recently closed down due to reports of a clown with a rifle seen on campus, although the reports were never confirmed.
So far, the reported sightings on the UMass Dartmouth campus have not been confirmed, and campus officials have not responded to the reports.