TEL AVIV – Five knife-wielding teens on the prowl for “scary clowns” were detained by police in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon Sunday night as the nationwide trend continues to sweep the country.
The teens, aged 13 to 16, told police they were carrying knives and sticks to fight “scary clowns,” the Times of Israel reported.
Police are battling twin phenomena of youths dressed as clowns out to scare people at night and gangs of armed teens that have formed to fight the clowns.
“We will deal severely with these violent incidents,” read a Sunday statement by police, in reference to the “scary clown” issue. “We will not allow the public to be harmed, frightened or harassed, or to have daily life disrupted.”
Masks and a plastic weapon confiscated by police (Israel Police)
“At the same time, the police won’t allow anyone to take the law into their own hands. Actions like these will be met with uncompromising enforcement,” the statement continued, addressing the counter-gangs.
In a separate statement, police urged parents to make sure “their children are not taking part in the phenomenon, which may embroil them in criminal proceedings.” The police also asked that private citizens refrain from taking the law into their own hands and do not harm the youth, since in most instances they are not out to harm people but rather are just out for pranks.
Police said the trend was part of an “international trend that has gathered momentum on social media.”
Many are blaming the phenomenon on the recently released horror movie remake It based on a Stephen King novel featuring the clown “Pennywise.”
Masks and plastic weapon confiscated by police (Israel Police)
On Saturday, police detained two teenagers from the Arab and Druze city of Shfaram in northern Israel after unearthing clown masks and a screwdriver in their car, the report said.
The two teens, aged 17 and 19, tried to flee the scene, police said.
Over the past two days, more than a dozen arrests have been made, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.
“Police operations are continuing in different areas to protect public places and prevent further incidents,” Rosenfeld told AFP. “There haven’t been any attacks. It’s just been people dressed up and walking around with fake axes, fake knives, etc.,” he said.
But police have warned that in a country under constant threat, such pranks could be misinterpreted as something far more sinister.
The trend was inspired by a similar phenomenon in the US, the Times of Israel commented.
Like many a fad imported from the United States, this one took a little while to get to Israel. It was about a year ago that a rash of “creepy clown” sightings were reported in towns across the US, though there was little actual evidence of hostile clown activity and life quickly returned to normal.