Clown craze spreading fear in Wigan
Police have condemned the '˜killer clown' craze amid claims the terrifying pranks have spread to the borough.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) spoke out after receiving increasing numbers of reports of people dressing up as clowns and then jumping out at residents or following them to scare them.
The force said it would not hesitate to prosecute people whose antics cross the line into criminal behaviour.
Reports suggest the craze, which has made its way across the Atlantic from the USA and appears to have been partly fuelled by social media, may now have appeared in the borough as well.
One resident said he had heard allegations of two people dressed as clowns running around the Higher Folds estate near Leigh after dark, jumping out at children and pursuing them across the playing fields. Others have been seen in the Hindley area.
However, rumours which recently spread that people in costumes were trying to scare residents at Pennington Flash Country Park with their antics have now emphatically been exposed as a hoax.
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson from GMP said: “We are aware of this menacing craze and will take action against those who are causing this fear.
“There has been a lot of speculation on social media and I’m urging people to refrain from fuelling this craze and creating more distress. The safety of people is our upmost priority; we want people to feel safe going about their daily lives. The individuals who are getting involved in this may not realise just how frightening it is to be on the receiving end, especially for children. It shows a complete disregard for people’s wellbeing and will not be tolerated.
“It’s important to stress that no-one has been physically harmed and I want to reassure people that we take reports of this nature extremely seriously.
“If you witness an incident, or want to make a report, please contact police as soon as possible.”
In some areas fancy dress shops have been asked to stop hiring out clown costumes. The rumours about people dressed as clowns roaming Pennington Flash caused particular concern online, but the whole thing has now been revealed as a prank.
In a contrite posting, Website Viral Wall confessed photos of the person in the scary-looking outfit were edited and the post apologised if anyone had been afraid because of it, saying spreading terror had not been the intention and they had no intention of ever causing any panic.
The antics of those taking part in the craze have been widely condemned, with one resident getting in touch with the paper referring to them as “crackpots”.
Anyone who sees any intimidating or threatening behaviour can ring police on the non-emergency number 101 or call independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.