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Authorities warn against taking clown hoax too far

LA CRESCENT— Law enforcement isn't clowning around.

With recent hysteria over creepy clowns and social media, authorities are looking to calm some of the worries people might have.

While it isn't a criminal offense to dress as a clown and stand in a public area, it is considered disorderly conduct to engage in activity that would "anger, disturb, or alarm others," including making threatening posts on social media.

La Crescent Police Chief Doug Stavenau noted that while there haven't been any confirmed clown sightings in town, he did receive one call from someone saying they had spotted a clown at Old Hickory Park.

"There wasn't really anything criminal about it," Stavenau said. "It was a quick appearance. Those types of things aren't concerning to us. What we're worried about is when people jump out of bushes and take the prank a little too far."


Stavenau said that while it might be somewhat humorous and surprising how social media has driven clown hysteria, the topic has saturated conversations among younger students.

"It blows me away on what social media has done and how much of a conversation is driven," he said.

Under Minnesota state statute, disorderly conduct is considered a misdemeanor. It can be punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of $1,000, or both. Threatening to harm someone could be considered a felony.

This goes both ways, for those dressing up as clowns, and for those who make threats about "going after" the clowns, Stavenau said.

"There's no wiggle room for that," he said. "Crimes of violence takes this to a whole new level. … Just because you're feeding a hoax doesn't give you a pass to go outside and actually make threats."

Bloomington police recently arrested a 13-year-old boy who wrote a Facebook post that "implied violence" at Valley View Middle School.

Hopkins police are pursuing charges against a 15-year-old Bloomington girl posing as a clown and made Facebook posts threatening to kill people.

After receiving several reports of clown sightings, the Houston County Sheriff's Office issued a statement on Facebook addressing the matter.


"Let me point this toward those that have or may be planning to dress up as clowns with the purpose of scaring kids and adults alike," Sheriff Mark Inglett's wrote. "It's not funny, it's stupid. Parents are on edge about this type of thing. It could get you hurt, you need to change your plans."

Administrators in the La Crescent-Hokah school district administrators are considering whether the hype over clowns might warrant some type of restriction, especially as Halloween approaches. For now, it seems that clown costumes will be frowned upon.

"We're discouraging any of kind of clown dress ups," Superintendent Kevin Cardille said. "We'll keep talking about it. We'll probably continue to discourage it, but I don't know if we'll do an all-out ban."

Stavenau noted that it was important for everyone to use common sense, clown or not.

"We just want to say to exercise common sense," he said.

"If a clown is standing on the street corner for whatever reason, obviously we're going to attempt to make contact," he said.

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