Clown sightings are no laughing matter in Middlesex County

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By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

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Several towns in Middlesex County are reporting sightings of clowns, either in person or on the Internet, some of which are being deemed as pranks and others that are of a more serious nature.

On Oct. 5, the Monroe Township Police Department was notified by the Monroe Township School District of an Instagram account they were made aware of. The account had a post that same date, which referenced clowns would be coming to the high school the next day, according to information provided by Lt. Jason Grosser.

 An investigation followed, and the department increased police presence at the schools the entire day of Oct. 6, police said. 

The investigation subsequently identified a 12-year-old male student at Monroe Township Middle School to be responsible for the account and post. He was charged the evening of Oct. 6 with a disorderly conduct juvenile delinquency complaint.

Further, the investigation revealed there are no credible threats against the school district, according to police.  

“Nevertheless, Monroe police will continue to work with the Monroe Township School District to ensure the safety of its students and staff,” the statement read. “In light of the current trend of clown sightings and threats nationwide, the Monroe Township Police Department would like to remind the public, these reported incidents are taken seriously. Anyone found to be responsible for any actions which cause alarm to the public will be prosecuted. Although some may find the clown aspect of the current trend to be funny, many don’t, which may cause physical and/or mental harm or serious injury.”

Monroe police had previously reported a suspicious incident in a residential housing development on Oct. 2.

A group of juveniles reported they were approached on three separate occasions by four subjects wearing clown attire off of Route 33 around 6 p.m. and on, according to a statement provided by the Monroe Township Police Department.

The juveniles described the first clown as wearing a yellow jumpsuit, red hair and a creepy clown Halloween mask with jagged teeth holding what was described as a black semi-automatic handgun, police said.

The second clown was described as having red hair, white face paint, oversized red clown shoes and holding a knife, according to police.

The last two clowns, both described as wearing white face paint, were seen in a gray two-door Honda Civic, bearing New York or Pennsylvania registration ending with the letters SY or ZY. The juveniles reported the passenger was brandishing a machete, according to the statement.

South Brunswick police are citing a posting on social media through an account called “jerseyclowns” that shows a picture of South Brunswick High School, according to Police Capt. Jim Ryan.

“There have been no incidents at the high school,” he said. “Patrols were increased in the area in addition to the school resource officer.”

In North Brunswick, most of the sightings have also come from posts that have been viewed online through various social media outlets, according to Police Capt. Brian Hoiberg.

“To this point, we believe our incidents to be juvenile prank-related, but we are investigating a few leads at this moment.

“In the meantime, we have increased patrols at all township schools and continue to work with the Board of Education to ensure the safety and peace of mind of all students, staff and visitors,” Hoiberg said.

The South River Police Department is also looking into rumors and social media postings referencing clowns in the borough.

“We are investigating the circumstances surrounding this situation. At this time, we do not believe this is anything more than a prank and do not believe there is any threat to the South River community. In addition, there have been no confirmed clown sightings within South River,” a statement released by the police department said.

“We would like to warn all teens and young adults to not get involved in this fad of dressing as clowns to cause fear and panic. The risk exists that someone may perceive these actions to be a threat and take justice into their own hands.”

Creating a false public alarm, intentional harassment and disturbing the peace can lead to criminal charges, according to police. Individuals caught engaging in such violations are subject to such charges and arrest under New Jersey state laws.

Anyone with information should call their local police department’s non-emergency number to report a suspicious incident or 911 in the event of an emergency.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.

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