Frightened children have been getting in touch with Childline to talk about harassment by ‘creepy clowns’ – an unpleasant phenomenon sweeping the country.
In just one week Childline has been contacted 120 times by children scared by the sinister trend in which people dress up as terrifying clowns in order to scare passers-by.
Local incidents include people being menaced near Golden Jubilee, at Beachy Head and in Old Town and Hailsham.
A quarter of those contacting Childline about clowns were under the age of 11.
The sudden deluge of contacts to Childline reflects an increase of reported incidents across the UK. Cases reported to police have involved clowns chasing children with weapons such as knives or baseball bats and in some instances clowns have been specifically targeting schools.
Children have also been targeted online, and in one instance in which a 13-year-old girl was messaged on Instagram from someone posing as a clown who threatened to cut her throat and rape her.
The NSPCC is advising children who are concerned about creepy clowns to:
• Talk to a parent or a teacher or trusted adult,
• Contact the police if they are threatened by a creepy clown in the street
• Call Childline if they want to discuss their worries or get advice and support
• Block and report abusive messages from people posing as clowns on social media
An NSPCC spokesperson said, “People getting dressed up as ‘creepy clowns’ and frightening children should take a long hard look at themselves.
“Clowns are meant to make children laugh but these people are abusing this idea and turning it into something twisted and warped. Increasing reports that these ‘clowns’ are not simply seeking to frighten children but using them to intimidate, commit crimes, abuse or bully are deeply worrying and this trend needs to be stamped out.
“Young people should stay well away from them. And if they do happen to see a ‘creepy clown’ out on the streets or lurking near their school they should immediately tell their parents or the nearest responsible adult and report it to the police where necessary.
“If a child is worried they should call Childline on 0800 1111 or get in touch via chidline.org.uk”
Earlier this week, Sussex Police Inspector Simon Starns spoke out after an Eastbourne cyclist was pounced on by a clown brandishing an offensive weapon.
He said: “We are aware this is a trend that has come over from America as Halloween is approaching.
“However while is not an offence to dress up as a clown and prank your mates, we don’t advise people to do this to strangers in the current climate of heightened security and it is an offence to carry an offensive weapon or an item which could be perceived to be a weapon.
“We will respond if someone feels threatened and the culprit could end up being arrested and then they won’t find it so funny.”