A 13-year-old boy dressed as Dracula and carrying a knife was detained on Tuesday in the coastal city of Herzliya as police continued to crack down on youngsters donning masks to scare the public.
After he was questioned, the boy was released, subject to restrictive conditions that include confinement to his home.
It was the sixteenth confirmed case of clown imitation as police warned they would show “zero tolerance” toward anyone who threatened the public and exposed it to danger.
The boy, picked up in Herzliya at around midnight, told police that he went to a city park in the wake of social media reports about scary clowns stalking Israel’s streets and that he had taken a knife from home.
Police on Wednesday reported 15 other recent cases of clowns they had found lurking in public places after dark trying to scare people — four in the southern city of Dimona, four in the northern city of Afula, two each in central Rishon Lezion and Holon, two in southern coastal Kiryat Gat and one in central Ramle.
One such clown, in the southern city of Beersheba, assaulted a 10-year-old girl with pepper spray, her father said.
The phenomenon was part of an “international trend that has gathered momentum on social media” the police said on Facebook on Tuesday.
It is most likely inspired by the recently released horror movie “It” based on a Stephen King novel and featuring Pennywise, the dancing clown.
Police also warned the clowns could be mistaken for a “credible threat” and end with the teenagers being harmed by bystanders. They asked the public “not to take the law into its hands and not to harm the youths” since the majority of their antics did not result in any harm to people or property.
In light of the clown scare, the Education Ministry also published guidelines on Tuesday meant to help children cope with the clown impostors.
“In recent weeks we’ve been receiving reports from students dressing as clowns, going out into the streets and lying in wait for children and others in order to frighten the public,” the ministry said.