Police detain 7 teens over holiday in clown-related incidents
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Police detain 7 teens over holiday in clown-related incidents

Youths wearing masks held across the country amid spate of creepy sightings aimed at scaring passersby

Screenshot from the movie 'It,' thought to have helped inspire copycat clowns in towns across Israel, September 2017. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Screenshot from the movie 'It,' thought to have helped inspire copycat clowns in towns across Israel, September 2017. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Israeli police on Thursday said they detained a total of seven people, mainly youths, across the country over the Sukkot holiday for incidents relating to clown impersonations, amid creepy sightings and attacks in recent weeks that have left Israelis on edge.

Police said a teenage girl in Tel Mond was treated for very light wounds after being attacked Thursday morning by a person in a clown mask.

In Jerusalem on Wednesday night, a 15-year-old wearing a clown mask was detained by police, as were two other teenagers carrying brass knuckles and a pocket knife who argued they were armed to protect themselves from the clowns.

On Thursday, a 17-year-old was detained by police in Jerusalem for having a clown mask and an electric shocker.

Teenagers dressed as clowns were also held for questioning in Kiryat Motzkin in the north, and in Herzliya and Ramat Hasharon in central Israel. In Ramat Hasharon, a 13-year-old with a clown mask and a baseball bat was detained by police and his parents were summoned to the station.

In Petah Tikva, a 28-year-old man, also dressed as a clown, was detained for scaring children in a public park.

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.”

A person dressed up as a clown in the northern city of Afula. (Screen capture: Facebook)

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.

In the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon, police detained a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old on Monday for wearing clown masks and frightening people in a public park. Police said a hammer was found in one of the minor’s bags that they suspected was used to scare passersby.

The two were later released after they confessed to their actions and expressed regret, police said Tuesday.

In a separate incident, police detained two 14-year-olds from Kiryat Gat for dressing up as clowns and scaring people. They told investigators they were “clowning around,” police said in a statement.

The two were detained on Monday after police received a call that two clowns were at a park in the city.

Channel 2 reported Monday that residents of Ashdod, Ofakim and Dimona — all in southern Israel —  noted a rise in similar cases, which often take place late at night.

“As I was walking down the street on my way home in the middle of the night, someone jumped behind me with a clown costume and yelled at me,” a Dimona resident told Channel 2. “Luckily I didn’t have a heart attack.”

“I had a pistol; luckily I didn’t shoot him by mistake,” he said. “This is really not funny.”

In response to the phenomenon, police in Dimona detained four minors aged 10-11 in an undercover operation, according to Channel 2.

Last week, residents of the northern city of Afula were abuzz after a number of sightings of clowns lurking in the streets after dark.

Posted by ‎חדשות עפולה והסביבה‎ on Sunday, 24 September 2017

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