Police on Saturday detained for questioning two teenagers from the Arab city of Shfaram in northern Israel after discovering costume masks and a screwdriver during a search of their vehicle in Kiryat Yam.
Police said the detainment was part of a crackdown in recent days on persons, mainly teenagers, dressing up in scary masks, usually clown masks, and walking around public areas in an attempt to spook passersby.
The two teens, a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old attempted to flee the scene, according to police, but were apprehended.
Overnight Friday-Saturday, police were called to a public park in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumin in the West Bank, near Jerusalem, where citizens said they spotted youths with clown masks.
Police detained five youths and a search revealed at least two clown masks and suits. The police said the teens’ parents were called to the station.
There have been a spate of such incidents in recent days and the phenomena has spurred a counter fashion of gangs of youths roaming their neighborhoods looking for the impostor clowns. Many of the clowns and clown-hunters have been armed.
Police said Saturday that officers would continue to crack down on the “illegal” phenomenon and would not let the public be “harmed, scared or have their daily lives be disrupted.”
In a statement Saturday, the police called the recent behavior “irresponsible,” and urged teenagers not to take part in the pranks.
Over the Jewish holiday of Sukkot on Wednesday and into the weekend, police detained at least a dozen youths and confiscated a variety of weapons as the crackdown continued.
Earlier in the week, police had vowed “illegal” clown impersonators would be met with “strict and uncompromising police enforcement.”
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, police described the recent phenomenon as part of an “international trend that has gathered momentum on social media” and said they had detained “many youths” dressed up as clowns throughout the country.
Describing their actions as “an illegal act,” police said violators “will encounter strict and uncompromising police enforcement” and called on parents to ensure “their children are not taking part in the phenomenon, which may embroil them in criminal proceedings.”
Police also warned the clowns could be mistaken for a “credible threat” and end with the teenagers being harmed by bystanders. Police 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.
The police response came amid a spate of reports over the past week of clowns lurking in public places after dark trying to scare people, most likely inspired by the recently released horror movie “It” based on a Stephen King novel and featuring Pennywise, the dancing clown.
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