Clown hysteria has swept the country as sightings continue to pop up across the nation.
Reports of people dressed as clowns terrorizing neighborhoods and of online accounts threatening to kill civilians have put many on high alert for the jesters. The issue struck USF last week when two calls were made to University Police (UP) reporting a clown on campus.
“On Oct. 3 … around 10:30 p.m., our dispatch center received two calls related to a clown sighting,” Renna Reddick, UP public information officer, said in an email to the Oracle. “The callers reported that the clown was seen heading north on USF Magnolia heading towards Fletcher. When officers responded to the area, they didn’t see a clown.”
Though the police were unable to locate the clown alleged to be on campus, clown sightings in Florida are increasing in frequency.
A high school student in Pinellas County reported being chased at her bus stop on Sept. 28. A group called “Ain’t Clowning Around” posted threats against various schools on Twitter that caused Pasco County School District to be on high alert. Pasco police in Holiday, FL are investigating multiple clown sightings, as well as clown-themed social media accounts attempting to interact with children.
In Pasco, a 12-year-old was arrested and charged with terroristic threatening — a second-degree felony — for allegedly posting a threat online, accompanied by a photo of a clown, to kill children attending Seven Springs Middle School in New Port Richey.
This is not a completely new trend in Florida. In 2014, several individuals reportedly dressed as clowns and scared citizens in multiple towns, including Jacksonville.
Moreover, USF is not the only college in Tampa to have reports of a clown lurking. On Oct. 3, a clown was also reported roaming the University of Tampa (UT) campus. The UT Campus Safety dispatch searched the area after receiving multiple reports of clown sightings. However, they failed to find the suspects.
Unlike USF, UT responded to the reports by issuing a message from the Dean of Students warning them against dressing up as a clown and encouraging students to report any suspicious activity.
As of the time of publication, 39 of the 50 states have now been affected by clown sightings or threats.
So far, a majority of the incidents have been dismissed as pranks; though over a dozen people have been arrested in connection to the sightings.
With Halloween right around the corner, several police departments have asked trick-or-treaters to avoid dressing up as clowns.